Prefiguring the vital modernist voices of the Western literary canon, Akutagawa writes with a trenchant psychological precision that exposes the shifting traditions and ironies of early twentieth-century Japan and reveals his own strained connection to it. These stories are moving glimpses into a cast of characters at odds with the society around them, singular portraits that soar effortlessly toward the universal. "What good is intelligence if you cannot discover a useful melancholy?" Akutagawa once mused. Both piercing intelligence and "useful melancholy" buoy this remarkable collection. Mandarins contains three stories published in English for the first time: "An Evening Conversation," "An Enlightened Husband," and "Winter."
“The flow of his language is the best feature of Akutagawa’s style. Never stagnant, it moves along like a living thing . . . His choice of words is intuitive, natural – and beautiful.—Haruki Murakami The works of Akutagawa comprise, in the literary sense, an indispensable anatomy of melancholy. He was both traditional and experimental and always compelling and fearless. As Joseph Brodsky said, Akutagawa loved the world strangely. There is no writer quite like him. The translations of Charles De Wolf make for the perfect duet between languages. This is a wonderful collection. —Howard Norman Extravagance and horror are in his work but never in his style, which is always crystal-clear.—Jorge Luis Borges”