Book Review: Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa and Others

Three Japanese Short Stories
by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Kafū Nagai, Koji Uno, Jay Rubin (Translator)

Publication date: February 22nd 2018
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pages: 50

Penguin Modern Series #05


‘Oh the cruelty of time, that destroys all things!’

Beguiling, strange and hair-raising tales from early 20th century Japan: Nagai’s Behind the Prison, Uno’s Closet LLB and Akutagawa’s deeply macabre General Kim.

Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York’s underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.

Source: Goodreads


This is a teeny tiny book so my review will be short too. “Three Japanese Short Stories” is exactly as its title explains: three short stories by Japanese authors. One of the stories is just 6 pages long!

I haven’t read anything by these authors before, but having enjoyed a lot of Japanese literature this year, I thought I’d give this little collection a try.

Story one is ‘Behind the Prison’ by Nagai Kafu, the second ‘Closet LLB’ by Uno Koji and the third is ‘General Kim’ by Akutagawa Ryunosuke.

In general I found these stories to just be okay. Of the three, I preferred the first but really none of them were especially memorable for me and as they were all very short, I found it tricky to really get in to any of them.

I think this is a book I’m going to come back to in a few months’ time, perhaps when I’ve read some more work from these three Japanese authors and can appreciate these little snippets a bit more.

Overall rating:  “Three Japanese Short Stories” is a tiny collection of short stories that won’t take you long to read. For me they were just okay and nothing to shout home about – 2 stars for now.

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