Book #10

Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa & Others

'Oh the cruelty of time, that destroys all things!'

Beguiling, strange and hair-raising tales from early 20th century Japan: Nagai's Behind the Prison, Uno's Closet LLB and Akutagawa's deeply macabre General Kim.

A lovely introduction into three Japanese writers in the form of short stories. This collection includes works from Uno Koji, Nagai Kafu, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa, none of whom I’d ever read before.

The narrative styles are very different, yet all of them are gorgeous to read. Where Nagai chooses a descriptive style to embody Japanese social customs and setting, Uno adopts a more person-centred tale focusing on the follies of education, whilst Akutagawa presents us with a fable, and his commentaries on its teachings.

I did wonder about the choices made when including these three particular stories. The first two seem thematically similar, with prodigal sons losing their direction, so the third inclusion seemed a bit jarring. 

Nonetheless, these are consuming, and a fascinating insight into a Japan of the past. I just might invest in the Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories to keep this flame alight.