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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

The Short Life of Akutagawa Ryunosuke

(Japanese translation below)

By Yoshikuni Sato

About His life

One of the most famous authors during the Meiji Era was Akutagawa Ryunosuke. He was born in 1892 and died in 1927. He was adopted by his uncle because of the death of his mother when he was 11 years old. He went on to the English Department in what is now Tokyo University in 1913. He wrote his first novel Ronen in 1914 and another novel Rashomon in 1915 while he was a university student.

In 1916 Akutagwa graduated from the university and after that he taught English in the Naval Academy until 1919, continuing to write at the same time. He got married in the same year and had three children by1925. After resigning as a teacher he joined a publishing company. In 1927, Akutagawa’s stepbrother killed himself after being falsely charged with the arson and deceiving the insurance company. Therefore, Akutagawa had to take care of his debt and his family. In the same year, he killed himself by drinking a large amount of a sleeping drug after a previous suicide attempt. He was only 35 years old.

About His Portfolio

Most of his works are short stories. For example, Rashomon is well known by many people. He also wrote Hana, which was written for children, and Kappa, which was written to criticize the human society in those days. Although he wrote a lot of short stories, some works are slightly longer. In addition, it is said the focus of his works in later years are different from his early years which mainly dealt with the psychological aspect of humans.

The Other Contemporary Authors

Among the other authors of that time, Natsume Soseki was especially famous. His real name was Natsume Kinnosuke. He was born in 1867 and died in 1916. His style of writing differed from the naturalistic writers of that time. Soseki had many apprentices, including Akutagawa. Soseki’s high evaluation to his work boosted his confidence because he strongly respected Soseki.










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