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Kappa (Peter Owen Modern Classic) Paperback – September 1, 2009
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This edition has a helpful biography of Akutagawa Ryunosuke, whose numerous short stories are still in print today - Rashomon, in particular, is widely available as a modern classic of Japanese literature. The biography helps illuminate the importance of the notes of fear, the long shadow of heredity, suicide, and the burden of family; Akutagawa's mother was schizophrenic and his fears that he had inherited her madness were a large factor in his suicide at age 35.
Most people are familiar with Akutagawa's other works, such as Rashomon, but Kappa is a wonderful place to start if you are unfamiliar with Japanese literature. I enjoyed every page of this book, and recommend it to anyone who loves fairy tales and modern adventure stories. Although the narrator is presented as a madman, it's really left up to the reader to decide if his experience was a dream, or if it really happened. And if it did, could it happen to you?