Should you embark upon reading this book and become discouraged (as was I) by the dark, brutal nature of the first group of stories, reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm, please don't give up. Encountering "Hell Screen" I came to realize what a masterful writer Akutagawa was. This is not just an account of a painting depicting Hell: This is Hell itself!
Then, modern pieces such as "Green Onions" -- a story that could easily fit into one of O. Henry's clever collections such as The Trimmed Lamp -- display a different side of Akutagawa entirely.
In the final section of the book, one comes face to face with Akutagawa himself, his soul laid bare in "The Life of a Stupid Man", a brilliant set of poetic tableaux. The book concludes with "Spinning Gears", a powerful and terrifying account of his descent into madness. Surely a masterpiece!
One of Japan's finest, most tragic writers. This is a remarkable collection of short stories and unfortunately about as much as you can find in English by Akutagawa. The first two, Rashomon and In A Bamboo Grove, were the basis of Kurosawa's film, Rashomon. Spinning Gears is a hallucinatory, autobiographical record of a mind spinning into madness and suicide.
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