This week, something totally different! Henry chose to translate a fun short story from Japanese to English. The story can be found here, but for those who need a translation…

A Horse’s Legs

Ryunosuke Akutagawa


The main character of this story is a man by the name of Hanzaburo Oshino. I am sorry to say that he was not a man who really amounted to much. He was a man of about thirty, working in the Beijing office of the Mitsubishi Corporation. Hanzaburo came to Beijing in the second month after he had graduated from university with honours in Commerce. He did not have a fantastic reputation amongst his co-workers or his superiors, but neither did he have a bad reputation. Hanzaburo was first and foremost a wholly unremarkable man for his appearance, just as for his home life.

Hanzaburo married a young woman by the name of Tsuneko two years ago. I am also sorry to say that they did not marry out of love. An elderly relative of one of them had arranged their marriage for them. Tsuneko was not a beauty, but neither was she hideous. There was always a sweet smile across her plump cheeks, barring the point on the journey to Beijing from Liaoning where she was bitten by bedbugs in a sleeper car. Even so, she now no longer worries about being bitten again, for she keeps the living room of their company-owned house on XX Street well decorated with two vases of chrysanthemums.

I said earlier that Hanzaburo’s home life was wholly unremarkable. In truth, this is not quite correct. He would eat meals together with Tsuneko, listen to the gramophone with her, take her to see the moving pictures – his life was not unlike that of any other salaried minion in Beijing. However, their lives could not escape the control that fate has. And as fate would have it, one early afternoon, the monotony of that wholly unremarkable family life was shattered in a single stroke. That day, Hanzaburo Oshino of the Mitsubishi Corporation died suddenly of cerebral apoplexy.

Even that afternoon, Hanzaburo had been diligently checking documents at his desk at the office on Dongdan Avenue. His colleague, who had been sitting across from him, hadn’t even noticed anything especially wrong with him. As calmly as ever, Hanzaburo had, with cigarette in mouth, struck a match and in that moment keeled over and died. Indeed, one might say he died too quickly, but the world does not criticise those who die happily. No, we only criticise the manner of their lives, and Hanzaburo got by without inviting such criticism. Indeed, there wasn’t much to criticise. His colleagues and superiors all expressed their deepest sympathies to his widow, Tsuneko.

Dr. Yamai, the kindly head of the local hospital, made his diagnosis and concluded that the cause of death was cerebral apoplexy. Sadly, Hanzaburo himself did not realise he was cerebrally apoplectic. He did not even realise that he was dead. He was simply surprised to find himself standing in an office he had never seen before.


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