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A review of Mandarins (Stories) from L.A. Times: Discoveries


Mandarins: Stories
Rynosuke Akutagawa

These glittering stories are the smallest divisible literary parts: moods, scenes, bits of conversation, set in trains, behind windows, in quiet rooms. Often, the action is limited to reverberations around harmony, like Meiji-era paintings: brief disappointment, shifts in feeling. “The scene had been vividly and poignantly burned into my mind,” thinks a man, watching a woman throwing oranges from a train window, “and from this, welling up within me, came a strangely bright and buoyant feeling.” The characters share a haughtiness, with their snippets of French and high literary tastes (they read Strindberg, Dostoevsky and Wilde). The refined attitude and exquisite detail (clouds, autumn grasses, lanterns, bowls) make the stories piercing, emotional, sometimes oddly painful.

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