My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Short stories have always been a a challenge for me, and this is probably the most cryptic set of stories that I have read yet.
What is it about these enormously acclaimed Japanese authors of the earlier 20th century. The first I read was Yukio Mishima, who over and above being known for his controversial novels, is most remembered for his ritual suicide by sepukku; and now Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who is called the “father of the Japanese short story” and has Japan’s premier literary award named after him, is also remembered for having killed himself at the age of 35.
Their literature and writings seem to have a cult following, because they definitely aren’t mass market material – and this is what attracted me to read some of their works.
This is a set of 6 tales that essentially explore dimensions of human nature. I don’t want to summarize the stories here, but I have to say that after reading each one of them, I looked up analyses online to understand the latent meanings that were clearly evading me – and in some cases I was surprised that I had almost completely missed the point – which in itself was amusing.
These are good stories to be read aloud, discussed and ruminated over. A good choice for book club reading. They are not very long, but some of them are complex.
The movie Rashomon was made based on two stories from this set and is highly acclaimed even today – with a rating of 8.3 on IMDb. That will be an interesting followup to the book.