Kappa cover

Akutagawa’s magical final work is a short novel with a magic spell all its own—poignant, fantastical, wry, melancholic, and witty

The Kappa is a creature from Japanese folklore known for dragging unwary toddlers to their deaths in rivers: a scaly, child-sized creature, looking something like a frog, but with a sharp, pointed beak and an oval-shaped saucer on top of its head, which hardens with age.
Akutagawa’s Kappa is narrated by Patient No. 23, a madman in a lunatic asylum: he recounts how, while out hiking in Kamikochi, he spots a Kappa. He decides to chase it and, like Alice pursuing the White Rabbit, he tumbles down a hole, out of the human world and into the realm of the Kappas. There he is well looked after, in fact almost made a pet of: as a human, he is a novelty. He makes friends and spends his time learning about their world, exploring the seemingly ridiculous ways of the Kappa, but noting many—not always flattering—parallels to Japanese mores regarding morality, legal justice, economics, and sex. Alas, when the patient eventually returns to the human world, he becomes disgusted by humanity and, like Gulliver missing the Houyhnhnms, he begins to pine for his old friends the Kappas, rather as if he has been forced to take leave of Toad of Toad Hall…

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892–1927) wrote over a hundred short stories and was considered a major author when he committed suicide at the age of thirty-five (just after finishing Kappa): one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards is named after him. Two of the stories from his collection Rashomon formed the basis of the award-winning film of the same title by Akira Kurosawa.

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda is a literary translator. Born in Tokyo, raised in Texas, she currently resides in New York City.

Allison Markin Powell is a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant. She maintains the database japaneseliteratureinenglish.com.

ISBN: 9780811232166

ISBN-10: 9780811232166

Publisher: New Directions

Publication Date: 06/06/2023 - 12:00am

On Sale: 06/06/2023 - 12:00am

Pages: 96

Language: English


Fiction / World Literature / Japan

Fiction / Classics

Fiction / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

Fiction / Absurdist