Story Club #4: Games People Play

Welcome to the fourth round of the Story Club. As announced earlier, Ramya is hosting this month’s story. Her choice of story is “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late. Read it here and join the discussion.

This week’s story is a treat to read and on a topic that has always fascinated me. How interpretation of scenarios/events differ according to mindsets and perceptions. Take for instance, the flash fiction challenges based on a photo prompt. Yet, amazingly, the stories that come up are as diverse as can be.

This is exactly what this story discusses – how different people perceive and narrate a scene leaving the reader thoroughly confused as to what exactly had happened. What I found most intriguing about this story is can the ghost’s version be relied upon? Is that the ‘real’ truth? Or is the medium including his or her own perception of the ghost’s narration? What do you think?

In a Grove is an out and out whodunit without the denouement. And it goes without saying that the author has done a great job – he has entertained and left a permanent impression by virtue of his style of telling a tale.

Interestingly, Akutagawa had a highly publicized dispute with Jun’ichirō Tanizaki over the importance of structure versus lyricism in story. Akutagawa argued that structure, how the story was told, was more important than the content or plot of the story, whereas Tanizaki argued the opposite. Six months ago, I would have vehemently supported Tanizaki but now I am not so sure. Although I am not willing to completely give up on the supremacy of the plot in a story but I do get what Akutagawa was rooting for. Whom do you support?

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1 March 1892 – 24 July 1927) is considered to be the Father of Japanese short stories. Akutagawa’s mother passed away soon after his birth due to mental illness and his maternal uncle brought him up. Akutagawa was very concerned about inheriting his mother’s illness. His apprehensions, hallucinations and subsequent nervousness drove him to suicide at 35 years of age. During a very short span, Akutagawa wrote over 150 short stories. He also wrote haiku under the penname Gaki, but not many seem to have been translated to English.

Rashomon was Akutagawa’s first short story. Interestingly, the famous Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed film Rashomon is based on the plot of In a Grove rather than that the short story, Rashomon, from where he takes only a few scenes and of course the name of his movie.

Credit goes to both Akutagawa and Akira Kurosawa for highlighting the concept of mutually contradictory accounts of a single event which is a common occurrence in real life, such as journalism and law. This concept is now popularly called “The Rashōmon Effect.”. Several movies also explore this concept – Gone Girl (Hollywood) and Talvar (Bollywood) come instantly to the mind. As do Agatha Christie murder mysteries. But I have to admit I couldn’t quite connect the Rashomon Effect to Star Trek – anyone kind enough to explain?

That’s enough from me for this Story Club and over to Ramya’s blog for her analysis and views on the story of the month – In a Grove.

Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club 🙂

Rules are simple:

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog while non-bloggers may email me – mysilverstreaks@gmail.com
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before.
  1. And of course have fun!

You can read the other Story Club posts here. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at mysilverstreaks@gmail.com.