Akutagawa's fiction can be divided into three periods termed early , middle , and late , including some posthumous publications. The character of Akutagawa's fiction changes significantly from one period to another, as does his state of mind. He writes stories both of ancient and modern times.
These history tales, then, contrast with Akutagawa's contemporary tales to form a kind of historical review from past to present. Indeed, several of Akutagawa's stories of this period are among his masterpieces: "Rashomon" suggests that people have the morality they can afford. Eerie in atmosphere and gruesome in action, the story describes the night adventure of an unemployed servant inside the south gate of Kyoto while Japan is in the throes of an economic depression. Looking for a place to sleep, he climbs the stairs to the second tier to find an old hag stripping the heads of the dead disposed there of their hair.
He attacks her, demanding an explanation. She argues that she does no wrong, for from the hair she makes wigs so that she may survive. Accepting her logic, he steals her clothes and departs. Akutagawa raises certain images—the decrepit gate, the jobless poor, the abandoned corpses, the pimple on the cheek of the servant, the stripping of the old woman—to a symbolic level to render firm support to the narrative.
The story of an artist who is an evil genius yet who passionately loves his daughter, it is reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne 's "Rappaccini's Daughter" , which it exceeds in its horror. A supreme painter, Yoshihide is ordered by his patron to paint a scene of hell on a screen. After shutting himself in his studio for several months, Yoshihide emerges to inform his lord that the painting is finished except for one scene—the depiction of a young lady being burned to death in a flaming carriage.
In the interest of perfection, the artist requests that his patron furnish him an actual demonstration of such an event, and his lord agrees. When the demonstration takes place, Yoshihide is at first horrified to see by the light of the fire that the young lady is his daughter; but in a few seconds he undergoes a complete transformation, his face gleaming with aesthetic joy.
If "Hell Screen" and "Rashomon" project horror and mystery, other fine stories of Akutagawa's early period are quite the opposite. Like "Lionizing," "The Nose" is a satire on social status, egoism, and vanity but also with surfeit, or what is too much.
After feeling his enormous nose impedes his social acceptance, a Buddhist monk succeeds in reducing it to normal size, whereupon he becomes inordinately vain. Now his vanity repels everyone else. In "Yam Gruel" a Japanese petty official has an excessive fondness for a gruel made of rice porridge with yams. He wishes he could have as much as he wants.
When a wealthy man gives him such an opportunity, he loses his appetite for yam gruel completely. The stories of Akutagawa's middle period show that changes were taking place in his "heart-mind" that were revising his view of the relationship between art and life. The question that was troubling him was which should take precedence. To Akutagawa's character Yoshihide, art took precedence over human life.
In another such story, Akutagawa's charming "Shuzanzu" , "An Autumn Mountain" , two old Chinese scholars discuss a painting whose aesthetics they have not understood. Eventually together they experience a mutual flash of insight, an aesthetic satori. They clap their hands and their faces light up with joy—they have understood! But from this point life and nature begin to win out over beauty in Akutagawa's mind. An earlier indication of his reversal can be detected in "Mikan" , "The Tangerines".
This story takes place aboard a train. A teenage country girl enters the compartment of the narrator. Her plain, countrified features and her ignorance in not knowing that her third-class ticket does not entitle her to ride second-class annoy him. In his mind she epitomizes the vulgarity of the lower classes. But at a railroad crossing three young boys in shabby clothes are waiting to wave to their departing sister.
Leaning out of the window, she tosses several tangerines to them. The narrator is awakened and responds that "within a few minutes I felt life welling up within me.
Finally, "Niwa" , "The Garden" is a study of the relationships of nature, art, and human life. The trip was stressful and he suffered from various illnesses, from which his health would never recover. Shortly after his return he published Yabu no naka " In a Grove ", 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. 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 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. He was 35 years old. Akutagawa wrote no full-length novels , focusing instead on short stories of which he wrote over during his brief life.
Only the title and the frame scenes set in the Rashomon Gate are taken from Akutagawa's story, "Rashomon. In Akutagawa's story no such resolution is required and the reader is left with no guide but their own understanding to unravel an unexplained mystery.
These stories reinterpreted classical works and historical incidents from a distinctly modern standpoint. Akutagawa was a strong opponent of naturalism, which had dominated Japanese fiction in the early s.
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He continued to borrow themes from old tales, and giving them a complex modern interpretation, however the success of stories like Mikan "Mandarin Oranges", and Aki "Autumn", prompted him to turn increasingly towards more modern settings. In , 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.
https://daiteterli.tk Shortly after his return he published his most famous tale, Yabu no naka "In a Grove", 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.
Akutagawa attacked Tanizaki by claiming that lyricism was more important than structure in a story. 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 he tried to take his own life, together with a friend of his wife, but the attempt failed.