"Rashomon and Other Stories"
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2008Originally I became aware of "Rashomon" because of the famous film by Akira Kurosawa, which I think I saw on TV over 10 years ago now. The book (or rather, short story) is also mentioned in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog, but it's been a while since I saw that too. So I don't know exactly what prompted me to get a copy of the original text recently.
In fact "Rashomon" is only one of a number of stories in this collection, and surprisingly it turns out that the Kurosawa film essentially takes only its title and a visual motif from it - in fact another story in the collection, "In a Bamboo Grove" is actually the basis for the events in the film - several witnesses give contradictory accounts of the rape of a woman and the murder of a samurai warrior by a bandit, and at the core of the story there is the question of whether people can agree on what the "truth" is. (In spite of the mix-up of the titles, the first story even lends its name to something called the Rashomon Effect.)
However there are many other stories in this collection, which span serveral different eras and styles, and while many of them are very dark (in particular "Hell Screen" in this translation reminds me of the best of M.R. James' ghost stories, which are truly chilling) others have a grim humour that feels very modern, in spite of being written in the early 20th century. It was a very pleasant surprise to discover this collection and I'm grateful to whatever spirit inspired me to finally seek the original story out.