Enchanting and sometimes terrifying—a certain restrained sorrow, a certain preference for the visual, a certain lightness of touch, seem to me essentially Japanese. Extravagance and horror are in his work, but never in his style, which is always crystal clear. Perhaps he was inspired by Swift’s Yahoos [but] halfway through the story, Akutagawa forgets the satiric conventions: it hardly matters to him that the Kappa, who are water imps, turn into humans who talk Marx, Darwin, or Nietzsche.
—Jorge Luis Borges

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

Available June 6, 2023

Kappa

Fiction by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Translated from the Japanese by Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda Allison Markin Powell

Cover design by Jamie Keenan

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…

Buy from:

Paperback (published June 6, 2023)

ISBN
9780811232166
Price US
13.95
Trim Size
5x8
Page Count
96

Ebook

ISBN
9780811232173

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Japanese novelist

Enchanting and sometimes terrifying—a certain restrained sorrow, a certain preference for the visual, a certain lightness of touch, seem to me essentially Japanese. Extravagance and horror are in his work, but never in his style, which is always crystal clear. Perhaps he was inspired by Swift’s Yahoos [but] halfway through the story, Akutagawa forgets the satiric conventions: it hardly matters to him that the Kappa, who are water imps, turn into humans who talk Marx, Darwin, or Nietzsche.
—Jorge Luis Borges
One never tires of reading and re-reading his best works…The flow of his language is the best feature of Akutagawa’s style. Never stagnant, it moves along like a living thing.
—Haruki Murakami