OUSD > Urban Dreams > Language Arts > Extended Literature > Grade 12 > Akutagawa


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Before his tragic death in 1927, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, author of "Rashomon," one of the most renowned stories of Japanese literature, wrote more than 100 short stories. Since his death, he has been described as one of the best-read men of his generation.

Included in this timeless collection are Akutagawa's "In a Grove," a psychologically sophisticated tale about murder, rape, and suicide; "The Martyr," the story of silent suffering in Christian Nagasaki; and "Kesa and Morito," the story of man driven to kill someone he doesn't hate by a lover whom he doesn't love; and "Rashomon," the infamous story of a thief scared into honesty by a terrifying encounter with a ghoul.

"What [Akutagawa] did was question the values of his society, dramatize the complexities of human psychology, and study, with a Zen taste for paradox, the balance of illusion and reality." More... (Amazon.com)

Author Biography:

Ryunosuke Akutagawa was born in 1892 in Toyko, whose spirit and whose traditions he evokes with the magic of Baudelaire's Paris or Kafka's Prague. His mother died insane when he was a child. His father, toward whom he felt a great resentment, was a failure who gave him up to relatives for adoption. A brilliant student of literature at Tokyo Imperial University, he had already published his first stories before graduating in 1916. Married two years later, he fathered three sons and taught English to support his family. Later he traveled to China and Russia. In 1915, he published his arresting psychological novella Rashomon, which was to gain international recognition and eventually become a hugely successful film by Kurosawa. After a period of severe depression, the increasingly unstable Akutagawa took his own life with an overdose of pills in 1927, at age thirty five. His suicide letter, A Note to a Certain Old Friend, is contained below. His nearly ten volumes of literary essays, short stories, and novellas are a masterful reinterpretation of Asian tradition and legend, marked by a profound infusion of Western thought and literary technique. More...

http://www.kalin.lm.com/akut.html (Kicking Giants)

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