Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1892-1927) is one of twentieth-century Japan's great storytellers. He is best known in the West for the story "Rashomon", "Rasho Gate", which, with another of his short stories as primary source, "Within a Grove", was the inspiration behind Kurosawa's film Rashomon.
Akutagawa read widely in world literature. He graduated from Tokyo University with a thesis on William Morris. His mentor was the great novelist Natsume Soseki, who had lived in London at the turn of the century.
Akutagawa's writings include reworkings of motifs and tales of China's and Japan's past, modern fables, essays, and a few autobiographical fictions which, like A Fool's Life, follow his intense engagement and difficulty with the world. He ended his brief life the month after completing A Fool's Life.
A small proportion of Akutagawa's output has, since 1930, been translated somewhat piecemeal into English, some works more than once. New selections continue to appear but an authoritative collected edition is still needed. This annotated translation of A Fool's Life includes new research.