Ryunosuke Akutagawa 芥川 龍之介(1892 ~ 1927)

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Novelist who Depicted Human Nature  
人間 本質 描いた 小説家
In 1982, the film “Rashomon” directed by Akira Kurosawa was selected for the Grand Prix – the best film out of 50 years of “Golden Lion Award” winners at the Venice International Film Festival.

The story is about three people who give conflicting testimonies in a court case, making it impossible for anyone to discover the whole truth.

The film was based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short novel “Yabu no Naka (in a grove)” and is also inspired by his other work “Rashomon.”
映画の原作は芥川龍之介の短編小説「藪の中」ですが、他の作品「羅生門」からも取り入れて います。

The setting for the novel is Rashomon: a large gate, which has become a dumping ground for the corpses of famine and disaster victims.

One day a famished man takes shelter from the rain under Rashomon.

There he comes upon an old woman who is removing hair from a dead woman’s body.
そこで、死体から髪を抜き取って いる老婆を目にします。

The man asks her why she’s doing this.
男はなぜそんなことをして いるのかを問い詰めます。

She replies that she’s going to make a wig and justifies her actions by saying that the dead woman had cheated people during her life.

The man rips off the woman’s clothes and leaves.

Ryunosuke’s themes take a look at human nature.
龍之介のテーマ は、人間の本質に目を向けています。

In “Kumo no Ito (the spider’s thread),” he describes human egoism: how we’re prepared to sacrifice others in the struggle for survival.

In “Toshishun,” the main character is a boy (called Toshishun) who discovers what’s truly important to human beings.

There are many other excellent works, including “Hana” (nose) and “Kappa” (water sprite).

Ryunosuke was born in Tokyo as the first born son of the Niihara family.

However, before long his mother became mentally ill, and he was adopted by his relatives, the Akuragawas.

After an uncomfortable upbringing as an adopted child, he enrolled at Tokyo Imperial University (present-day Tokyo University).

He began to write novels and fell in love with a female college student.

Unfortunately he had to give her up because the Akutagawa family was strongly opposed to the match.

When he’d established himself as a novelist, Ryunosuke married at the age of 25.

However, the following year he transferred his affections to a married female poet.

He suffered for his selfishness.

Subsequently, various misfortunes befell his family, leaving him to take care of bereaved family members thus putting him in a difficult situation economically.

Ryunosuke gradually lost sight of his goals in life.

When his son was born, instead of rejoicing, he lamented, “Why was he born into a world full of hardship?”

Eventually he committed suicide by taking poison at the age of 35.

His letter addressed to a friend reads, “I just have a vague uneasiness about my future.”
友人にあてた手紙には、「僕は、自分の将来にただ ぼんやりした不安がある」とありました。

In 1935 the “Akutagawa Award”was founded in recognition of his achievement.

The award is given twice a year to the best short story and has become established as one of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes.

Many prominent novelists, including Seicho  Matsumoto and Shusaku Endo, have received the prize.
これまで、松本清張、遠藤周作などたくさんの著名な作家が受賞して います。

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