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The Life of a Stupid Man by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Review

Title: The Life of a Stupid Man

Author: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

First published January 1, 1927

55 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780141397726 (ISBN10: 0141397721)

Rating: 3.76


‘What is the value of a human life – a mere speck in the vast universe? This question resonates deeply in Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s autobiographical tales, penned by one of Japan’s modernist literary masters.

In his Little Black Classic, Akutagawa invites readers to explore the complexities of the human experience through a collection of poignant stories. From his native Japan to the far reaches of the world, Akutagawa’s works offer a glimpse into the beauty and brutality of life.

With a range of works that are both intimate and thought-provoking, this Little Black Classic is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the human condition. Experience the depth and diversity of Akutagawa’s writing, as he explores the many facets of what it means to be alive.’

About the Author

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke was a prominent Japanese writer before World War II. He gained fame for his unique writing style, which combined traditional Japanese themes with modern sensibilities.

Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of two of his short stories for the screen also contributed to his popularity outside of Japan.

Akutagawa was born in Tokyo’s Kyōbashi district as the eldest son of dairy operator Shinbara Toshizō and his wife Fuku. He was named “Ryūnosuke” because he was 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 seven months after his birth, and he was adopted by her older brother and took on the Akutagawa family name. Despite the trauma of his mother’s illness, he grew up in a literary environment in his uncle’s home in Edo.

Akutagawa was an exceptional student, excelling in the Chinese classics during his school years. He attended Tokyo Imperial University, majoring in English literature, and was involved in the publication of the journal Shinshichō with his high school friends.

In 1915, he published Rashōmon in the magazine Teikoku bungaku, which was inspired by his experiences of disappointment in love. He also went to meetings at Natsume Sōseki’s house and considered himself the author’s disciple.

After graduating from Tokyo University, Akutagawa became known for his unique writing style. His stories reinterpreted classical works and historical incidents from a modern perspective.

His works focused on themes such as human egoism and the value of art, which were expressed through Edo-mono, ōchō-mono, Kirishitan-mono, and kaika-mono short stories. He married Tsukamoto Fumiko in 1918 and left his job as an English instructor at the naval academy in Yokosuka to work for the Mainichi Shinbun.

This period was marked by his introspection and health issues, which resulted in a series of autobiographically-based stories known as Yasukichi-mono.

Editoral Review

Rynosuke Akutagawa’s The Life of a Stupid Man is a poignant collection of short stories about the human experience. First published on January 1, 1927, the book delves deep into the psyche of the protagonist, exploring themes of loneliness, despair, and the search for meaning in life.

Akutagawa, a Japanese author known for his mastery of the short story genre and for his influence on modern Japanese literature, is a masterful storyteller who creates complex characters and vivid settings. The Life of a Stupid Man is a collection of stories written in the first person, each exploring the life of an individual who is struggling to find their place in the world.

From a young boy who is abandoned by his mother to a successful author who harbors deep regrets, Akutagawa explores the depths of human emotion with exquisite precision. He paints a picture of a world where happiness is fleeting and moments of joy are often followed by moments of despair.

Despite their tragic nature, the stories in The Life of a Stupid Man are uplifting in their own way. The characters are flawed and imperfect, but they are also empathetic and relatable.

Akutagawa invites the reader into their world, allowing us to experience their pain and suffering, but also their moments of transcendence and beauty. It is a testament to his skill as a writer that he is able to evoke such powerful emotions with so few words.

The book is also significant from a cultural and historical perspective. Akutagawa was writing during a time of great social upheaval in Japan, and his work speaks to the anxieties and fears of the era.

But despite the specific historical context, the themes of isolation and the search for meaning are universal, and the book remains relevant to this day. In terms of critical analysis, The Life of a Stupid Man is a masterful work of literature.

Akutagawa’s writing is spare and precise, yet it is also rich in meaning and emotion. His characters are fully realized, and the pacing of the stories is impeccable.

The book is a testament to the power of the short story genre, and it is clear why Akutagawa is considered one of its greatest practitioners. If there is one limitation to the book, it is that the stories can be somewhat depressing.

The characters are often faced with tragic circumstances, and their struggles can be difficult to read at times. However, this is also what makes the book so powerful.

The Life of a Stupid Man is not a feel-good read, but it is an incredibly rewarding one. Overall, The Life of a Stupid Man is a must-read for anyone who appreciates great literature.

Akutagawa’s stories are timeless, and they speak to the human condition in a way that is both profound and accessible. The book is a masterpiece, and it deserves to be read and studied for generations to come.

It is difficult to assign a rating to a book of this caliber, but if pressed, I would give it a perfect score of 10 out of 10.