The Short Fiction of Akutagawa

The Legacy of "In a Grove" on Hollywood Storytelling College

Although the title of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's short story “In a Grove” may not be familiar, the story may well be. In 1922, Sincho magazine published “In a Grove” as a kind of ancient Japanese detective story, with the mystery at the center of the narrative presented in the form of a trial testimony from various witnesses. Nearly thirty years later, a film would be adapted from Akutagawa’s story and given the title of an earlier and entirely unrelated story by the author: "Rashomon." While the plot of the movie is taken directly from “In a Grove” it is from Akutagawa’s “Rashomon” that the movie’s framing device of stories told beneath a large city gate was derived.

The structure of the story in which the same event is interpreted through the eyes of assorted witnesses providing their own slightly different perspective has since become almost something of a sub-genre unto itself. At the time of Akutagawa’s story, however, the concept of a narrative without any one singular objective truth was still exceptional enough to be considered confusing by many publishers and, later, producers.

“In a Grove” prefigures Postmodern fiction with its fragmented narrative and multiple possibilities for objective truth arrived at by subjective...

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