Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
     
 

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Prefiguring the vital modernist voices of the Western literary canon, Akutagawa writes with a trenchant psychological precision that exposes the shifting traditions and ironies of early twentieth-century Japan and reveals his own strained connection to it. These stories are moving glimpses into a cast of characters at odds with the society around them, singular

Overview

Prefiguring the vital modernist voices of the Western literary canon, Akutagawa writes with a trenchant psychological precision that exposes the shifting traditions and ironies of early twentieth-century Japan and reveals his own strained connection to it. These stories are moving glimpses into a cast of characters at odds with the society around them, singular portraits that soar effortlessly toward the universal. "What good is intelligence if you cannot discover a useful melancholy?" Akutagawa once mused. Both piercing intelligence and "useful melancholy" buoy this remarkable collection. Mandarins contains three stories published in English for the first time: "An Evening Conversation," "An Enlightened Husband," and "Winter."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The flow of his language is the best feature of Akutagawa’s style. Never stagnant, it moves along like a living thing . . . His choice of words is intuitive, natural – and beautiful.—Haruki Murakami

The works of Akutagawa comprise, in the literary sense, an indispensable anatomy of melancholy. He was both traditional and experimental and always compelling and fearless. As Joseph Brodsky said, Akutagawa loved the world strangely. There is no writer quite like him. The translations of Charles De Wolf make for the perfect duet between languages. This is a wonderful collection. —Howard Norman

Extravagance and horror are in his work but never in his style, which is always crystal-clear.—Jorge Luis Borges

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935744122
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
03/22/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
255
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Evening was falling one cloud-covered winter’s day as I boarded a To¯kyo¯-bound train departing from Yokosuka. I found a seat in the corner of a second class coach, sat down, and waited absentmindedly for the whistle. Oddly enough, I was the only passenger in the carriage, which even at that hour was already illuminated. Looking out through the window at the darkening platform, I could see that it too was strangely deserted, with not even well-wishers remaining. There was only a caged puppy, emitting every few moments a lonely whimper.
It was a scene that eerily matched my own mood. Like the looming snow clouds, an unspeakable fatigue and ennui lay heavily upon my mind. I sat with my hands deep in the pockets of my overcoat, too weary even to pull out the evening newspaper.
At length the whistle blew. Ever so slightly, my feeling of gloom was lifted, and I leaned my head back against the window frame, half-consciously watching for the station to recede slowly into the distance. But then I heard the clattering of dry-weather clogs coming from the ticket gate, followed immediately by the cursing of the conductor. The door of the second-class carriage was flung open, and a young teenage girl came bursting in.
At that moment, with a shudder, the train began to lumber slowly forward. The platform pillars, passing one by one, the water carts, as if left carelessly behind, a red-capped porter, calling out his thanks to someone aboard – all this, as though with wistful hesitancy, now fell through the soot that pressed against the windows and was gone.

Meet the Author

Ryu ?nosuke Akutagawa (1892–1927), the "father of the Japanese short story," produced hundreds of stories over the course of his brief and tortured writing career. Akutagawa’s work is marked by his profound knowledge of classical and contemporary literature from Japan, China, and the West. A strong autobiographical element also runs through much of his fiction. At the age of 35, Akutagawa died from an overdose of barbiturates, leaving behind a groundbreaking corpus of fiction.
Translator: Charles De Wolf is a professor at Keio University. A linguist by background, he has in recent years turned to the study and translation of modern Japanese literature. He has translated numerous stories from Konjaku Monogatari, a twelfth-century folktale collection, including the volume Tales of Days Gone By. His translations have appeared in Japan Airlines’ Skyward magazine. De Wolf is also the author of How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese.

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