Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 28, 2011

"In a Grove" By Ryunosuke Akutagawa- The Most Famous Japanese Short Story

"In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (10 pages, 1922, translated from Japanese by Takashi Kojima)

The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project-link to 90 reviews

" In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892 to 1927-Tokyo) is the most famous Short Story by a Japanese author.   I have previously posted on another of his stories,  "The Mandrians".    In that post I give some information on the general sensibility of Akutagawa.    Five movies have been made using this story as a base.

"In a Grove" tells us the story of the bird of a samurai, from seven different view points, including that of the victim.   We hear from an old wood cutter who found the body and a Buddhist Priest who passed the victim on the road.   From the wood cutter we get a look back at very old traditions, from the Priest we learn a bit about the iconography of Japanese Buddhism.    We then meet an ex-criminal now working as a bounty hunter for the police who claims to have captured the killer (though his evidence is week).   Next we hear from the mother- in- law of the victim, her daughter is missing and she begs the police to find her.   Soon we hear from the wife.   Now as the wife speaks we begin to think we know what happened to the samurai.   Of course we do not!  

I will not tell any more of  the plot of the story.   It is very modern in its use of multiple view points and very traditional in the value system that motivates the central characters.   It takes a deep look at the role of honor and face in the samurai code, especially as it affects the wives of samurai.

I endorse this story totally.   You can read it HERE.  

   Mel u


charles. said...

One semester ago, my English professor required our class to read this one. Very interesting short story, not the usual type. I found myself confused about the whole story that time, though. :)

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a really interesting story. I'm fascinated by the multiple perspectives idea. I'll be following the link and reading it sometime very soon.

@parridhlantern said...

I read this as one of the tales in the collection " Rashomon & 17 other tales" which had an introduction by Haruki Murakami. I remember thinking at the time that this was a fascinating story, but then Ryunosuke Akutagawa is an interesting writer. Have just read a book by someone who won the prize named after him.