David Haws's Reviews > The Setting Sun

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai
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's review
Oct 31, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: japanese-fiction
Read from October 29 to 31, 2011

I can see how the novel needs to be done in the first person, and why the narrator needs to be a woman (and I like the allusion to Zarathustra) but is the decline of an aristocracy all that interesting? I watched K-20 (怪人二十面相・伝) the other night, which depicts Japan at the same time but having avoided WWII and the collapse of its hereditary aristocracy—and it was more interesting if only because it presented a novelty.

Why are we so partial to our own DNA? Clearly, great men and women rise to the oligarchy and accumulate power. Why are they often so intent on passing that power to their progeny (who inevitably regress to the mean, without the will or competence to exercise power)? Power without the will to power is inevitably destructive, and the children spin out useless life of dissipation and, thankfully, disappear. There will always be an oligarchy, as long as society has graded competence and needs to get things done, but the idea of locking up a place in the oligarchy for your descendants is absurd. Primogeniture didn’t make the aristocracy evil, it made the aristocracy irrelevant.

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