History of Literature


Eastern Literature

Japanese Literature

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa


Ryunosuke Akutagawa




Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Born 1 March 1892(1892-03-01)
Tokyo, Japan
Died 24 July 1927 (aged 35)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Writer
Genres short stories
In this Japanese name, the family name is Akutagawa.
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (芥川 龍之介 ,Akutagawa Ryūnosuke?); (March 1, 1892 - July 24, 1927) was a Japanese writer active in Taishō period Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story", and is noted for his superb style and finely detailed stories that explore the darker side of human nature.


Early life
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was born in the Kyōbashi district of Tokyo, the third child and only son of father Toshizō Niihara and mother Fuku Niihara (née Akutagawa). He was named "Ryūnosuke" ("Dragon Son") because he was allegedly born in the Year of the Dragon, in the Month of the Dragon, on the Day of the Dragon, and at the Hour of the Dragon. His mother went insane shortly after his birth, so he was adopted and raised by his maternal uncle, Akutagawa Dōshō, from whom he received the Akutagawa family name. He was interested in classical Chinese literature from an early age, as well as the works of Mori Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki, both of whom were popular when he was growing up.

He entered the First High School in 1910, developing relationships with classmates such as Kan Kikuchi, Kume Masao, Yamamoto Yūzō, and Tsuchiya Bunmei, all of whom would later become famous authors. He began writing after entering Tokyo Imperial University in 1913, where he studied English literature.

While still a student he proposed marriage to a childhood friend, Yayoi Yoshida, but his adoptive family did not approve the union. In 1916 he became engaged to Fumi Tsukamoto, whom he married in 1918. They had three children: Hiroshi Akutagawa (1920-1981) was a famous actor, Takashi Akutagawa (1922-1945) was killed as a student draftee in Burma, and Yasushi Akutagawa (1925-1989) was a famous composer.

After graduation, he taught briefly at the Naval Engineering School in Yokosuka, Kanagawa as an English language instructor, before deciding to devote his full efforts to writing.

Literary career

A set photograph of 1919. The second from the left is Ryunosuke Akutagawa. At the far left is Kan Kikuchi.In 1914, Akutagawa and his former high school friends revived the literary journal Shinshichō ("New Currents of Thought"), publishing translations of William Butler Yeats and Anatole France along with their own works.

Akutagawa published his first short story Rashōmon the following year in the literary magazine Teikoku Bungaku ("Imperial Literature"), while still a student. The story, based on a twelfth-century tale, with a sharp twist of psychological drama, was largely unnoticed by the literary world, except by noted author Natsume Sōseki. Encouraged by the praise, Akutagawa thereafter considered himself Sōseki's disciple, and began visiting the author for his literary circle meetings every Thursday. It was also at this time that he started writing haiku under the haigo (or pen-name) Gaki.

These meetings led to Hana ("The Nose", 1916), which was published in Shinshicho, and again highly praised by Sōseki. Akutagawa followed with a series of short stories set in Heian period, Edo period or early Meiji period Japan, and were based on the themes of the ugliness of egoism and the value of art. These stories reinterpreted classical works and historical incidents from a distinctly modern standpoint.

Noted examples of these stories include: Gesaku zanmai ("A Life Devoted to Gesaku", 1917) and Kareno-shō ("Gleanings from a Withered Field", 1918), Jigoku hen ("Hell Screen", 1918); Hokōnin no shi ("The Death of a Christian", 1918), and Butōkai ("The Ball", 1920).

Akutagawa was a strong opponent of naturalism, which had dominated Japanese fiction in the early 1900s. He continued to borrow themes from old tales, and giving them a complex modern interpretation, however the success of stories like Mikan ("Mandarin Oranges", 1919) and Aki ("Autumn", 1920) prompted him to turn increasingly towards more modern settings.

In 1921, at the crest of his popularity, Akutagawa interrupted his writing career to spend four months in China, as a reporter for the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun. The trip was stressful and he suffered from various illnesses, from which his health would never recover. Shortly after his return he published his most famous tale, Yabu no naka ("In a Grove", 1922).

Later life
The final phase of Akutagawa's literary career was marked by his deteriorating physical and mental health. Much of his work during this period is distinctly autobiographical, some even taken directly from his diaries. His works during this period, especially Daidōji Shinsuke no hansei ("The Early Life of Daidōji Shinsuke", 1925) and Tenkibo ("Death Register", 1926) are introspective and reflect Akutagawa's increasing depression and sense of uneasiness with his deteriorating mental state.

Despite his poor condition, he did engage in a spirited debate against famed author Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. Akutagawa attacked Tanizaki by claiming that lyricism was more important than structure in a story.

Akutagawa's final works: Kappa (1927), a satire based on a creature from Japanese folklore, Haguruma ("Cogwheel", 1927), a horror story based on a sensitive mind that is gradually losing its hold on reality, Aru ahō no isshō ("A Fool's Life"), and the Bungeiteki na, amari ni bungeiteki na ("Literary, Much Too Literary", 1927) reveal much of his final psychological state.

Towards the end of his life, Akutagawa began suffering from visual hallucinations and nervousness over fear that he had inherited his mother's mental disorder. In 1927 he tried to take his own life, together with a friend of his wife, but the attempt failed. He finally committed suicide by taking an overdose of Veronal, which had been given to him by Saito Mokichi on July 24 of the same year. His dying words in his will claimed he felt a "vague uneasiness" 「ぼんやりとした不安」 (Bon'yaritoshita fuan ?). He was only 35 years old.





Yoshitaka Amano (天野 喜孝 (formerly 天野 嘉孝) ,Amano Yoshitaka?) (born July 28, 1952) is a Japanese artist

These illustrations were created for the cover of Ryunosuke Akutagawa paperback series published by Kadokawa Shoten in 1992.

Amano captures Akutagawa's haunting world in an unusually painterly style for him.








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