Rashomon has always been one of my favourite stories. My first encounter with it was my viewing of Akira Kurosawa’s film of the same title, which I have placed in its entirety here, thanks to Youtube.
The film (and short story) is essentially about the difficulty of finding out the truth about a rape and murder, and revolves around an interrogation of the four people present at the scene of crime. These four people, who may have been mere witnesses or else somehow involved in the action, each present different accounts of the event, making the truth elusive and the facts unverifiable.
Rashomon has been heralded and reverred by those who believe in “subjectivity”, “perspectivism”, “constructivism”, and all those other terms which are, in essence, difficult ways of saying three things, that is, that people 1) generally have terrible memories, (2) want to see themselves as guiltless, and (3) lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. And this is as much true of historicacl accounts as it is in the context of the fictional film Rashomon; there seems to be a very thin line between fiction and reality. If you ask me, the complex contemporary approach to the study of history can be summed up in the following few questions, namely: “Who lied?”, “Why did they lie?”, “What did they lie about?”, and “Am I also lying?”.