Egli lesse tutti i libri della biblioteca personale del padre adottivo e, in seguito, anche quelli presenti nella biblioteca comunale, manifestando una particolare, quasi religiosa attenzione nei loro confronti [4]. In particolare, fin da giovane Akutagawa fu attratto dai classici della letteratura tradizionale giapponese, soprattutto i cosiddetti kusazoshi, libri illustrati tipici del tardo periodo Edo [5]. Le sue successive opere recheranno ampia traccia di questa predilezione per il mondo classico, sia nella scelta dei motivi letterari e nel frequente utilizzo di citazioni dirette, che nel riadattamento nei suoi racconti - ad es. Spinto anche da questa buona accoglienza, Akutagawa scelse di dedicarsi interamente alla scrittura senza lasciarsi coinvolgere dalle questioni sociali e politiche che lo circondavano. Durante questo viaggio le sue condizioni di salute fisica e mentale subirono un progressivo deterioramento. Una serie di incontri extraconiugali e di problemi finanziari aggravarono la sua inquietudine, facendogli assumere la decisione di trasferirsi con la famiglia presso il villaggio in cui era nata sua moglie [14].

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Having just been let go by his master, a samurai, he has no place to go. He contemplates becoming a thief to avoid his inevitable death, but is repulsed by this option. A pimple festers on his right cheek.

Having nowhere to go, he ascends to the tower of the gate, where he finds a gaunt old woman crouched amid several corpses. He draws his sword, approaches the old woman, and demands an explanation for why she is plucking hair out of a corpse. The woman, frightened, responds that the corpses disposed of there were those of people who had done such evil things in their lifetimes that they deserved to have their hair plucked out of them, and that the only way she could avoid starving to death was to take their hair for making wigs.

The woman who she is harvesting from now used to sell snake flesh to the guards of the gate as fish and they enjoyed it immensely. He roughly kicks the woman onto the corpse and disappears into the night. In this story, the narrator plays the modernist role of a presenting the consciousness of the servant throughout. A servant who has served a samurai for most of his life must be very well versed in the samurai code of conduct, which is very rigorous.

Indeed, one of the main features of the code is to face death without hesitance when necessary. But in this case, Akutagawa allows the servant to have an emotional reaction to an act that appears evil. It is an exaggeration of the act he has already contemplated acting upon, thievery. The woman who plucks hairs is not only dishonoring the dead people from whom she steals, but has also neglected the possible value of human life all together. The servant sees burglarizing the dead as a worse atrocity than stealing from the living, so his actions are more honorable than hers.

The woman, whose rationalization is only given because of the threat to her life, admits that it is an evil act, but a necessary one. She does no harm other than to blemish the honor of the dead. What other choice does she have? It is truly a choice between disenchanted life and death. Do the tenants of the samurai code of conduct apply when the situation becomes this dire? Do any morals survive in abject squalor? Furthermore, does rationalization of actions survive in this lowly realm?

For the servant it is a big leap for him to become a thief, but the woman seemed to understand that she had no other choices to begin with, so she mindlessly went about making her living. All the while the rain and darkness pervade, giving this story a depressed and pessimistic quality.


Rashomon and other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

February 26, at AM I read his work a few years ago. The selection and translation of the stories was done by Charles De Wolf. Professor De Wolf of Kieo University has provided some excellent notes on each story and is best known for his translations of 12th century Japanese fables. These are the oldest Japanese works I have so far read. Both Borges and Murakami were devotees of his work. The longest story is thirty seven pages, the shortest, the title work, is five pages. There is a similar persona in much of the narration of these stories.


Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Real sound does not merely add to the images, it multiplies it. I wanted to restore some of this beauty. I thought of it, I remember in this way: one of the techniques of modern art is simplification, and that I must therefore simplify this film. The gate and the courtyard are very simply constructed and the woodland is real.

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