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A haunted imagining of the life of Ryunosuke Akutagawa

David Peace’s 10th novel provides a fragmented glimpse into the world of one of Japan's greatest writers

By Tim Martin   July 2018

From 1919. Akutagawa is second from left

“How can any of us escape this world of ours, except for faith, madness or death?” wonders the protagonist of David Peace’s 10th novel, a fictional imagining of the life of Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927). Sometimes considered a Japanese cousin to Poe, Dostoevsky or Kafka, Akutagawa is probably best known in English for “In a Bamboo Grove,” a modernist story of a murder reported from several perspectives that was filmed by Akira Kurosawa as Rashomon. But it’s by no means the strangest…

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