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Ryunosuke%20Akutagawa_In%20a%20Bamboo%20Grove

Ryunosuke%20Akutagawa_In%20a%20Bamboo%20Grove - RYUNO SUKE...

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Unformatted text preview: RYUNO SUKE AKUTAGAWA Rashémon and Seventeen Other Stories Selected and Translated with Notes by JAY RUBIN With an Introduction by HARUKI MURAKAMI PENGUIN BOOKS PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WCZR ORL, England Penguin lteland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pry Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi — 110 017, India Penguin Group (M), cur Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebanlt, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England First published in Penguin Books (UK) 2006 Firsr published in Penguin Books (U.S.A.) 2006 13579108642 Translation, notes and selection copyright © Jay Rubin, 2006 Introduction copyright © I-Iaruki Mutaltami, 2006 All rights reserved This book has been selected by the Iapanese Literature Publishing Project ULPP) which is run by the Japanese Literature Publishing and Promotion Center (1-H! Center) on behalf of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan. ISBN 0 14 30.3984 9 CIP data available Printed in the United States of America Except in the United States of America, this hook is sold subiect to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, he lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher‘s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author‘s rights is appreciated IN A BAMBOO GROVE The Testimony of a Woodcutter under Questioning by the Magistrate That is true, Your Honor. I am the one who found the body. I went out as usual this morning to cut cedar in the hills behind my place. The body was in a bamboo grove on the other side of the mountain. Its exact location? A few hundred yards off the Yamashina post road. A deserted place where a few scrub cedar trees are mixed in with the bamboo. The man was lying on his back in his pale blue robe with the sleeves tied up and one of those fancy Kyoto-style black hats with the sharp creases. He had only one stab wound, but it was right in the middle of his chest; the bamboo leaves around the body were soaked With dark red blood. No, the bleeding had stopped. The wound looked dry, and I remember it had a big horsefly sucking on it so hard the thing didn’t even notice my footsteps. Did I see a sword or anything? No, Sir, not a thing. Just a length of rope by the cedar tree next to the body. And—oh yes, there was a comb there, too. Just the rope and the comb is all. But the weeds and the bamboo leaves on the ground were pretty trampled down: he must have put up a tremendous light before they killed him. How’s that, Sir—a horse? No, a horse could never have gotten into that place. It’s all bamboo thicket between there and the road. IN A BAMBOO GROVE II The Testimony of a Traveling Priest under Questioning by the Magistrate I’m sure I passed the man yesterday, Your Honor. Yesterday at—about noon, I’d say. Near Checkpoint Hill on the way to Yamashina. He was walking toward the checkpoint with a woman on horseback. She wore a stiff, round straw hat with a long veil hanging down around the brim; I couldn’t see her face, just her robe. I think it had a kind of dark-red outer layer with a blue-green lining. The horse was a dappled gray with a tinge of red, and I’m fairly sure it had a clipped mane. Was it a big horse? I’d say it was a few inches taller than most, but I’m a priest after all. I don’t know much about horses. The man? No, Sir, he had a good-sized sword, and he was equipped with a bow and arrows. I can still see that black-lacquered quiver of his: he must have had twenty arrows in it, maybe more. I would never have dreamt that a thing like this could happen to such a man. Ah, what is the life of a human being—a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad, so sad. What can I say? The Testimony of a Policeman under Questioning by the Magistrate The man I captured, Your Honor? I am certain he is the famous bandit, Tajomaru. True, when I caught him he had fallen off his horse, and he was moaning and groaning on the stone bridge at Awataguchi. The time, Sir? It was last night at the first watch.1 He was wearing the same dark blue robe and carrying the same long sword he used the time I almost captured him before. You can see he also has a bow and arrows now. Oh, is that so, Sir? The dead man, too? That settles it, then: I’m sure this Tajomaru fellow is the murderer. A leather—wrapped how, a quiver in black lacquer, seventeen hawk-feather arrows— they must have belonged to the victim. And yes, as you say, Sir, the horse isa dappled gray with a touch of red, and it has a clipped mane. It’s only a dumb animal, but it gave that bandit just what he deserved, throwing him like that. It was a short I). A WORLD IN DECAY way beyond the bridge, trailing its reins on the ground and eating plume grass by the road. Of all the bandits prowling around Kyoto, this Tajomaru is known as a fellow who likes the women. Last fall, people at Toribe Temple found a pair of worshippers murderedu—a woman and a child—on the hill behind the statue of Binzuru.2 Everybody said Tajomaru must have done it. If it turns out he killed the man, there’s no telling what he might have done to the woman who was on the horse. I don’t mean to meddle, Sir, but I do think you ought to question him about that. The Testimony of an Old Woman under Questioning by the Magistrate Yes, Your Honor, my daughter was married to the dead man. He is not from the capital, though. He was a samurai serving in the Wakasa previncial office. His name was Kanazawa no Takehiro, and he was twenty-six years old. No, Sir, he was a very kind man. I can’t believe anyone would have hated him enough to do this. My daughter, Sir? Her name is Masago, and she is nineteen years old. She’s as bold as any man, but the only man she has ever known is Takehiro. Her complexion is a little on the dark side, and she has a mole by the outside corner of her left eye, but her face is a tiny, perfect oval. Takehiro left for Wakasa yesterday with my daughter, 'but what turn of fate could have led to this? There’s nothing I can do for my son-in-law anymore, but what could have happened to my daughter? I’m worried sick about her. Oh please, Sir, do everything you can to find her, leave no stone unturned: I have lived a long time, but I have never wanted anything so badly in my life. Oh how I hate that bandit—that, that Tajomaru! Not only my son-in—law, but my daughter . . . (Here the old woman broke down and was unable to go on speaking.) 1- 3|- =t- a? :i- IN A BAMBOO GROVE 7 I3 Ta'omaru’s Confession 1 Sure, I killed the man. But I didn’t kill the woman. 80, Where did she go? I don’t know any better than you do. Now, wait just a minute—you can torture me all you want, but I can’t tell you what I don’t know. And besides, now that you’ve got me, I’m not going to hide anything. I’m no coward. I met that couple yesterday, a little after noon. The second I saw them, a puff of wind lifted her veil and I caught a peek at her. Just a peek: that’s maybe why she looked so perfect to me—an absolute bodhisattva of a woman.3 I made up my mind right then to take her even ifI had to kill the man. Oh come on, killing a man is not as big a thing as people like you seem to think. If you’re going to take somebody’s woman, a man has to die. When I kill a man, I do it with my sword, but people like you don’t use swords. You gentlemen kill with your power, with your money, and sometimes just with your words: you tell people you’re doing them a favor. True, no blood flows, the man is still alive, but you’ve killed him all the same. I don’t know whose sin is greater—yours or mine. (A sarcastic smile.) Of course, if you can take the woman without killing the man, all the better. Which is exactly what I was hoping to do yesterday. It would have been impossible on the Yamashina post road, of course, so I thought of a way to lure them into the hills. It was easy. I fell in with them on the road and made up a story. I told them I had found an old burial mound‘1 in the hills, and when I opened it it was full of swords and mirrors and things. I said I had buried the stuff in a bamboo grove on the other side of the mountain to keep anyone from finding out about it, and I’d sell it cheap to the right buyer. He started getting interested soon enough. It’s scary what greed can do to people, don’t you think? In less than an hour, I was leading that couple and their horse up a mountain trail. When we reached the grove, I told them the treasure was buried in there and they should come inside with me and look at it. The man was so hungry for the stuff by then, he couldn’t refuse, but the woman said she’d wait there on the horse. I I4 A WORLD IN DECAY figured that would happen—the woods are so thick. They fell right into my trap. We left the woman alone and went into the grove. * It was all bamboo at first. Fifty yards or so inside, there was a sort of open clump of cedars—the perfect place for what I was going to do. I pushed through the thicket and made up some nonsense about how the treasure was buried under one of them. When he heard that, the man charged toward some scrawny cedars visible up ahead. The bamboo thinned out, and the trees were standing there in a row. As soon as we got to them, I grabbed him and pinned him down. I could see he was a strong man—he carried a sword—butI took him by surprise, and he couldn’t do a thing. I had him tied to the base of a tree in no time. Where did I get the rope? Well, I’m a thief, you know—I might have to scale a wall at any time—so I’ve always got a piece of rope in my belt. I stuffed his mouth full of bamboo leaves to keep him quiet. That’s all there was to it. Once I finished with the man, I went and told the woman that her husband had suddenly been taken ill and she should come and have a look at him. This was another bull’s-eye, of course. She took off her hat and let me lead her by the hand into the grove. As soon as she saw the man tied to the tree, though, she whipped a dagger out of her breast. I never saw a woman with such fire! If I’d been off my guard, she’d have stuck that thing in my gut. And the way she kept coming, she would have done me some damage eventually no matter how much I dodged. Still, I am Tajémaru. One way or another, I managed to knock the knife out of her hand without drawing my sword. Even the most spirited woman is going to be helpless if she hasn’t got a weapon. And so I was able to make the woman mine without taking her husband’s life. Yes, you heard me: without taking her husband’s life. Iwasn’t planning to kill him on top of everything else. The woman was on the ground, crying, and I was getting ready to run out of the grove and leave her there when all of a sudden she grabbed my arm like some kind of crazy person. And then I heard what she was shouting between sobs. She could hardly catch her breath: “Either you die or my husband dies. It has to be one of you. IN A BAMBOO GROVE 15 It’s worse than death for me to have two men see my shame. I want to stay with the one left alive, whether it’s you or him.” That gave me a wild desire to kill her husband. (Sullen excitement.) When I say this, you probably think I’m cruelerthan you are. But that’s because you didn’t see the look on her face—and especially, you never saw the way her eyes were burning at that moment. When those eyes met mine, I knew I wanted to make her my wife. Let the thunder god kill me, I’d make her my wife—that was the only thought in my head. And no, not just from lust. I know that’s what you gentlemen are thinking. If lust was all I felt for her, I’d already taken care of that. I c0uld’ve just kicked her down and gotten out of there. And the man wouldn’t have stained my sword with his blood. But the moment my eyes locked onto hers in that dark grove, I knew I couldn’t leave there until I had killed him. Still, I didn’t want to kill him in a cowardly way. I untied him and challenged him to a sword fight. (That piece of rope they found was the one I threw aside then.) The man looked furious as he drew his big sword, and without a word he sprang at me in a rage. I don’t have to tell you the outcome of the fight. My sword pierced his breast on the twenty—third thrust. Not till the twenty—third: I want you to keep that in mind. I still admire him for that. He’s the only man who ever lasted even twenty thrusts with me. (Cheerful grin.) As he went down, I lowered my bloody sword and turned toward the woman. But she was gone! I looked for her among the cedars, but the bamboo leaves on the ground showed no Sign she’d ever been there. I cocked my ear for any sound of her, but all I could hear was the man’s death rattle. Maybe she had run through the underbrush to call for help when the sword fight started. The thought made me fear for my life} I grabbed the man’s sword and his bow and arrows and headed straight for the mountain road. The woman’s horse was still there, just chewing on grass. Anything else I could tell you after that would be a waste of breath. I got rid of his sword before coming to Kyoto, though. So that’s my confession. I always knew my head would end 16 A WORLD IN DECAY up hanging in the tree outside the prison some day, so let me have the ultimate punishment. (Defiant attitude.) Penitent Confession of a Woman in the Kiyomizu Temple After the man in the dark blue robe had his way with me, he looked at my husband, all tied up, and taunted him with laugh- ter. How humiliated my husband must have felt! He squirmed and twisted in the ropes that covered his body, but the knots ate all the deeper into his flesh. Stumbling, I ran to his side. No—I tried to run to him, but instantly the man kicked me down. And that was when it happened: that was when I saw the indescribable glint in my husband’s eyes. Truly, it was indescribable. It makes me shudder to recall it even now. My husband was unable to speak a word, and yet, in that moment, his eyes conveyed his whole heart to me. What I saw shining there was neither anger nor sorrow. It was the cold flash of contempt—contempt for me. This struck me more painfully than the bandit’s kick. I let out a cry and collapsed on the spot. When I regained consciousness, the man in blue was gone. The only one there in the grove was my husband, still tied to the cedar tree. I just barely managed to raise myself on the carpet of dead bamboo leaves, and look into my husband’s face. His eyes were exactly as they had been before, with that same cold look of contempt and hatred. How can I describe the emotion that filled my heart then? Shame . . . sorrow . . . anger . . . I staggered over to him. “Oh, my husband! Now that this has happened, I cannot go on living with you. I am prepared to die here and now. But you—yes, I want you to die as well. You witnessed my shame. I cannot leave you behind with that knowledge.” I struggled to say everythingI needed to say, but my husband simply went on staring at me in disgust. I felt as if my breast would burst open at any moment, but holding my feelings in check, I began to search the bamboo thicket for his sword. The bandit must have taken it——I couldn’t find it anywhere—and my husband’s bow and arrows were gone as well. But then I IN A BAMBOO GROVE 17 had the good luck to find the dagger at my feet. I brandished it before my husband and spoke to him once again. “This is the end, then. Please be so good as to allow me to take your life. I will quickly follow you in death.” When he heard this, my husband finally began moving his lips. Of course his mouth was stuffed with bamboo leaves, so he couldn’t make a sound, but I knew immediately what he was saying. With total contempt for me, he said only, “Do it.” Drifting somewhere between dream and reality, I thrust the dagger through the chest of his pale blue robe. Then I lost consciousness again. When I was able to look around me at last, my husband, still tied to the tree, was no longer breathing. Across his ashen face shone a streak of light from the setting sun, filtered through the bamboo and cedar. Gulping back my tears, I untied him and cast the rope aside. And then—and then what happened to me? I no longer have the strength to tell it. That I failed to kill myself is obvious. I tried to stab myself in the throat. I threw myself in a pond at the foot of the mountain. Nothing worked. I am still here, by no means proud of my inability to die. (Forlorn smile.) Perhaps even Kanzeonf bodhisattva of compassion, has turned away from me for being so weak. But now—now that I have killed my husband, now that I have been violated by a bandit—what am I to do? Tell me, what am I to . . . (Sudden violent sobbing.) The Testimony of the Dead Man’s Spirit Told through a Medium After the bandit had his way with my wife, he sat there on the ground, trying to comfort her. I could say nothing, of course, and I was bound to the cedar tree. But I kept trying to signal her with my eyes: Don’t believe anything he tells you. He’s lying, no matter what he says. I tried to convey my meaning to her, but she just went on cringing there on the fallen bamboo leaves, staring at her knees. And, you know, I could see she was listening to him. I writhed with jealousy, but the bandit kept his smooth talk going from one point to the next. “Now that your flesh has been sullied, things will never be the same with 18 A WORLD IN DECAY your husband. Don’t stay with him—come and be my Wife! It’s because I love you so much that I was so wild with you.” The bandit had the gall to speak to her like that! When my wife raised her face in response to him, she seemed almost spellbound. I had never seen her look so beautiful as she did at that moment. And what do you think this beautiful wife of mine said to the bandit, in my presence—in the presence of her husband bound hand and foot? My spirit may be wander— ing now between one life and the next, but every time I recall her answer, I burn with indignatiou. “All right,“ she told him, “take me anywhere you like.” (Long silence.) And that was not her only crime against me. If that were all she did, I would not be suffering so here in the darkness. With him leading her by the hand, she was stepping out of the bamboo grove as if in a dream, when suddenly the color drained from her face and she pointed back to me. “Kill him!” she screamed. “Kill him! I can’t be with you as long as he is alive!” Again and again she screamed, as if she had lost her mind, “Kill him!” Even now her words like a Windstorm threaten to blow me headlong into the darkest depths. Have such hateful words ever come from the mouth of a human being before? Have such damnable words ever reached the ears of a human being before? Have such— (An explosion of derisive laughter.) Even the bandit went pale when he heard her. She clung to his arm and screamed again, “Kill him!” The bandit stared at her, saying neither that he would kill me nor that he would not. The next thing I knew, however, he sent my wife sprawling on ...
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