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No Longer Human

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Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, this leading postwar Japanese writer's second novel, tells the poignant and fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas. In consequence, he feels himself "disqualified from being human" (a literal translation of the Japanese title).

Donald Keene, who translated this and Dazai's first novel, The Setting Sun, has said of the author's work: "His world … suggests Chekhov or possibly postwar France, … but there is a Japanese sensibility in the choice and presentation of the material. A Dazai novel is at once immediately intelligible in Western terms and quite unlike any Western book." His writing is in some ways reminiscent of Rimbaud, while he himself has often been called a forerunner of Yukio Mishima.

Cover painting by Noe Nojechowiz, from the collection of John and Barbara Duncan; design by Gertrude Huston

177 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1948

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About the author

Osamu Dazai

850 books4,816 followers
Osamu DAZAI (native name: 太宰治, real name Shūji Tsushima) was a Japanese author who is considered one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan. A number of his most popular works, such as Shayō (The Setting Sun) and Ningen Shikkaku (No Longer Human), are considered modern-day classics in Japan.
With a semi-autobiographical style and transparency into his personal life, Dazai’s stories have intrigued the minds of many readers. His books also bring about awareness to a number of important topics such as human nature, mental illness, social relationships, and postwar Japan.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,094 reviews
Profile Image for Clark.
126 reviews169 followers
February 23, 2013
I spent like three years just crazy depressed. Grim thoughts all the time, super self destructive, at once alienating and distributing "cries for help" or whatever you wanna call it... sheesh, man. It was so fucked. I'm really glad I got out of that frame of mind and I hope I never go back. No Longer Human was something I read toward the end of that phase. I probably would have been okay anyway, but this shit helped a ton. Dazai totally nails the impossibly bummed out mindset without being corny or melodramatic, and when you're basically just being a little sad black cloud all walking around, you're super cynical and things like this book are almost impossible to find 'cause your first reaction to everything is just to tear it apart and say it sucks... which is hella corny and melodramatic anyway, but if you know what it's like, like, being unbearably, unstoppably sad, and trying to put some sort of normal-ish face on it in your day to day life (between intermittent private and regrettable public freakouts probably), then well, this book pretty much covers all that really, really perfectly.

Oh, also I was loaned the book by this really cute girl who prefaced it by saying "This book reminds me of you." and once I read and finished it and had a grip on what the whole thing was actually about, I realized that that was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me. Shit man, I kinda well up a little when I think about it. Really.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,945 reviews292k followers
February 5, 2022
An algorithm recommended this to me because I enjoyed Williams' Stoner and I guess this is an example of how algorithms fail to understand the nuances of book preferences.

Sure, there are some similarities between Stoner and No Longer Human-- male protagonist narrates a mostly unremarkable life story, both are sad --but where Stoner was a sad book filled with many uplifting moments of passion, love and integrity, Dazai's book is extremely depressing. Every little event in the life of the protagonist, no matter how seemingly innocuous, is ugly, hateful, without a single speck of joy.

I don't want to be too harsh because I know this book was very personal to the author, who struggled with his own mental health and eventually committed suicide. But reading this book was a horrible experience for me and I am in a good place right now. Please do not read this if you are struggling with depression. I could feel the book dragging me down into a dark place as I was reading.

Some authors showcase the beauty in the mundane, but here the narrator finds every bit of ugliness in it. Nothing brings him joy and we are repeatedly told this matter-of-fact. The misogyny was nauseating, too.
I never could think of prostitutes as human beings or even as women. They seemed more like imbeciles or lunatics.

I often enjoy dark, gritty books, but there are some minds I just don't want to be inside.
Profile Image for cameron.
143 reviews677 followers
November 30, 2021
lowered it to 1 star just bc men are mad i didn’t like it
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,898 followers
May 29, 2022
They say that “time assuages”,—
Time never did assuage;
An actual suffering strengthens,
As sinews do, with age.

Time is a test of trouble,
But not a remedy.
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no malady.

Emily Dickinson, Part Four: Time and Eternity, The Complete Poems


Everything passes. (169)

A gentle breeze brushes the branches of luxuriant trees brimming with cherry blossoms which surround the quaint park bench I chose as my reading spot. A diaphanous cloud softly attached to the sun creates the sensation of being part of a watercolor painting bound to become the antithesis of an actual winter day. Away from the bustle of an anonymous city, from the thoughts that keep accumulating after roaming awkwardly around the mind, trying to repress relentless pangs of sadness. The only sound I would like to hear is the one pages make as they silently turn in order to unfold this heartrending story; one page after the other, reverberating through the Gardens, ensuring the quietude which, by virtue of a book's mere presence, clears my mind completely. If only for a few hours. Or for the briefest minute unable to last sixty wretched seconds.
I wonder if I have actually been happy.

No Longer Human, published in 1948, is a timeless piece of writing that portrays the sense of isolation of Oba Yozo, a confused child who became a troubled man; roughly, a deceitful person unable to show his true nature to most people, a man disqualified as a human being.
The book is mostly composed of three memoranda; the last one is divided into two parts. Dazai interwove significant personal experiences into his writing; it was somewhat striking to identify those autobiographical aspects as I read our tormented protagonist's story.

The first memorandum is about Yozo's childhood. From an early age, he felt overwhelmed by a profound sense of alienation, which was increased by the presence of his overbearing father. In the end, incapable of understanding human beings, confused by their selfishness and artificial personalities, he steps into the world and becomes another unauthentic person, begetting the perception of having a jocose and amusing manner in the eyes of people around him. In his mind, such farce was the only way he could find to face the creatures he feared the most: humans. As these attempts take place, he ends up harboring a feeling many of us are familiar with but, in another display of egotism triggered by human condition, perhaps the limitations of our surroundings, we tend to think we are the only ones feeling that way.
All I feel are the assaults of apprehension and terror at the thought that I am the only who is entirely unlike the rest. It is almost impossible for me to converse with other people. What should I talk about, how should I say it? – I don't know.

I could connect with some of Yozo's reflections, naturally. I am not someone who immediately trusts in people, especially after many close encounters with disappointment. In that sense, I understood completely the character's reasons for keeping his agonies locked in his chest, imbued with a persistent sense of mistrust. Nevertheless, I could never endorse his absolute insincerity towards everybody. It is impossible not to take this book to everyday life; how distressing it must be to interact with someone so irrationally fearful and indecisive, unwilling to respond when another person tries to reach out, incapable of seeing his ability to actually love. Yozo's feigned emotions, which culminated with the perfect role of the farcical eccentric, somehow shielded the people who cared about him from his recurrent fears, though the element he chose to protect himself (and them, who knows) was deception.

The second memorandum is mostly about the continuation of Yozo's self-destructive behavior, which by then included excessive drinking, smoking and many encounters with prostitutes (to whom he dedicates some degrading observations). Until he finds a woman who makes him feel, for the first time, as if he had freed himself from fear and uneasiness. He didn't feel the need to hide his gloomy disposition. Unfortunately, things rapidly started to go awry.
The weak fear happiness itself.

Even though he had many love affairs, one thing did not change: he was equally cruel to all women who cared about him . The seemingly cogent arguments and plausible excuses to justify his actions are infinite. In any case, the results were indelible wounds and irreparable consequences.
“You look like someone who's had an unhappy childhood. You're so sensitive–more's the pity for you.”

That same memorandum also reflects the conflicts that are present in human relationships in the context of an adverse socio-economic status. At one point, the humiliation of not being able to provide for a woman was insufferable; the last straw that culminated in another mistake.

The third memorandum chronicles the protagonist's late twenties.

Several ambivalent feelings arise from reading about a character such as Yozo. I was able to comprehend some of his fears and his genuine sense of alienation, though other times I saw him as an inconsiderate man who epitomized cruelty and selfishness.
After a life of lying to himself and to others, Yozo chooses to write about his miseries and atrocious acts without a shred of falseness. Without resorting to any sentimentality – in contrast to his entire existence, his notebooks do not try to please anyone – he tells his story without engaging in unavailing circumlocution, elegantly gliding to the brink of brutal honesty as he circumvents every rule of an ostensibly civilized world. Despite the stark writing style which predominated in the novel, Dazai endowed it with not only plentiful profound meditations which may resonate with many readers around the globe, but with an exquisite language reminiscent of wistful fragments of poetry written in some bleak hotel room. There is no rhapsody of praise to nature, no writer simply extolling the virtues of silence. This novel is a one-way ticket to a person's psyche. Indubitably, a memorable journey since Dazai's words might linger in the vicinity of one's mind for far too long.
Unhappiness. There are all kinds of unhappy people in this world. I suppose it would be no exaggeration to say that the world is composed entirely of unhappy people. But those people can fight their unhappiness with society fairly and squarely, and society for its part easily understands and sympathizes with such struggles. My unhappiness stemmed entirely from my own vices, and I had no way of fighting anybody... Am I what they call and egoist? Or am I the opposite, a man of excessively weak spirit? I really don't know myself, but since I seem in either case to be a mass of vices, I drop steadily, inevitably, into unhappiness, and I have no specific plan to stave off my descent.

Selfishness or a weak spirit. I am not in the position to ascertain to which of those personalities Yozo belongs. Recently, I stumbled upon a quote by Jane Austen (which can be found in her novel Mansfield Park) that makes me ponder his situation, since it states the following: “Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” In that context, Austen only refers to selfishness; she is not as bold as one M. de Norpois (I just met him so I still don't know what to think of him) who declared once that for every sin there is forgiveness.

We all carry within us some degree of egoism – in fact, it can be seen as another defense mechanism regarding the protection of one's heart; I should know. But of course, some humans are replete with it. So much so that sometimes they might seem incapable of feeling pain, as they might do everything in their power to avoid it, regardless of the pain they are inflicting on others. To me, Yozo's case is somewhat paradigmatic; he relied on his antics to deceive people – and thereby being able to deal with them – instead of turning to superficially veracious words he never meant to say or a perpetual pusillanimous silence. Either way, Yozo suffers; he is not a pretender who thinks that being unable to fit into society is something that makes him special. It makes him truly unhappy. However, fighting for our existence is certainly not impossible; as a matter of fact, it is a more reasonable plan than sitting comfortably, feeling miserable and just waiting for the world's gaping maw to tear us apart.
I thought, “As long as I can make them laugh, it doesn’t matter how, I’ll be alright. If I succeed in that, the human beings probably won’t mind it too much if I remain outside their lives. The one thing I must avoid is becoming offensive in their eyes: I shall be nothing, the wind, the sky.”

Unlike Austen, I can't say for sure that there is no hope of a cure. The idealistic within me, breathing optimism and naivety daily, will claim that there is. The cynical within me, a little bruised due to some unpleasant experiences in life, will guarantee that, in reality, there is no remedy for such unfortunate malady. Despite this state of uncertainty, I agree with the first part of Austen's statement; we should forgive. As Dickinson's poem continues to echo in my head, the thought that time alone doesn't heal all wounds resounds just as much; indeed, it is what we do with that time that may alleviate certain symptoms. Forgiveness is an active way to deal with anything that once caused a small cut or unfathomable pain. It is not only part of a process which is essential to avoid hardening one's heart, it is also a humane way to treat others, even those whose actions leave a bittersweet aftertaste. Even if I am not forgiven. Not that the world needs my foolish perspectives in the form of endless paragraphs of little merit, of course, but I for one choose to forgive, and that decision is made taking into consideration, among other things, the possibility that such cure, in fact, does not exist. I wouldn't want to magnify the weight of the cross that some people have to carry around, for the absence of said remedy might be already too harsh a punishment.

I turn the last page and the previous luminous scenery metamorphoses into a typical winter day. Storm clouds are already appearing above the horizon; they will soon cover these empty cherry trees, and me. I walk back home, trying not to think about the intense sky's azure, the park bench, the limpid lake I never mentioned, the cherry blossoms, the tragedy of being no longer human. Trying not to think.
Indomitable thoughts.

Aug 28, 16
* Also on my blog.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews45.8k followers
February 25, 2023
Society, am I right?

Big bummer. No one's really a fan. And yet here we all are, for better or worse, even against our wishes: cogs in that ol' machine.

That's the tragedy of this book.

We follow Yozo - or we follow the narrator who now has Yozo's journals. Pick your poison. Either way, we spend most of this two-parter reading Yozo's words, from his perspective, as he laments his existence outside of society - nay, outside of HUMANITY ITSELF!

And yet - Yozo is no further removed from the system, or from his fellow humans, than you or I. In fact, if you live under a metaphorical rock (or a literal one, a la Patrick from Spongebob), you may be further off than he is.

Yozo acquiesces to what he sees as the world wanting from him. In turns, he is a class clown, he is married, he is raising a child. At times he covers up what he sees as his inhumanity with addictions and morally gray (or worse) indulgences: alcoholism, prostitution, seduction.

What he defines as his lack of humanity is in fact that he must struggle to appear human - and is there anything more human than that? What better reflects what it means to be a member of society than our fight to adhere to its guidelines?

To me, at least, what makes this story (and its ending) so sad is that Yozo is not the one-of-a-kind outlier he builds his life around believing himself to be. He is just like all of us - which would have disgusted him above all.

Bottom line: I am reformed from thinking all short books are easy reads!



review to come / EXACTLY 3.75 stars

currently-reading updates

i HATE the translation i was reading (not the edition here) so this is going back on hold.

update: #blessed to have found a different one in a very cool bookstore

tbr review

i relate to this title (because i just ate so many peanut butter cookies i'm pretty sure i legally qualify as a baked good)
Profile Image for zhen.
55 reviews20 followers
March 29, 2021
wow, this piece really explores the... misogyny of the artist 🤔
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews109 followers
January 26, 2022
No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai is deep, painful, real and so very human. This book, which was first published in 1948, is a raw portrayal of the human thinking, feelings and emotions. It specifically captures the isolated, troubled, disturbed and confused thought process of a young man named Yozo.

This well-written book though depressing and pessimistic is, in a way, a required reading for everyone, as it is important for each one of us to understand and feel what a fellow human being is going through, when they are feeling depressed, lonely and emotionally low.

No Longer Human is for all humans who have a heart that feels, and are compassionate and empathetic.

Thank you, Osamu Dazai Osamu Dazai for this remarkable book!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
786 reviews5,398 followers
November 30, 2022
I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live a life of a human being,’ writes Yozo, the narrator of Osamu Dazai’s partly autobiographical novel No Longer Human. But what is it to be human in the first place and in a society that finds success at the expense of others, have we let the wolves in human clothing dictate the definition for us? Is being human simply the degradations and deceits self-justified by society, sidelining anyone that gets in the way of social climbers who manipulate this social compass as best befitting their hierarchical lusts? The novel, framed as a collection of journals gifted to an overarching narrator, follow the life of self-proclaimed social outcast Yozo from his childhood being a class clown to cover up for his fears and overwhelming imposter syndrome, to a wreckless adulthood of alcoholism and apathy as his world collapses around him. Yet for a novel of being a social outcast, we find this book to be almost unbearably human, and if it is painfully dark it is only because it tears apart the veil of fictions we delude ourselves with to not acknowledge the depths of depravity inherent in reality. Both empathetic yet cowardly and despicable, Yozo is an tormented artist who both stumbles and is pulled downward in a world to slake the thirsts of those who crave the downfalls of others to feel better about oneself. With dark franticness and insights that recall Hamsun's Hunger and Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, Osamu Dazai has created a powerful look at humanity and society that will leave you trembling and agonizing over the sad fate of Yozo.

People talk of social outcasts. The words apparently denote the miserable losers of the world, the vicious ones, but I feel as though I have been a "social outcast" from the moment I was born. If I ever met someone society has designated as an outcast, I invariably feel affection for him, an emotion which carries me away in melting tenderness.

In all of Yozo’s apprehensions, anxieties and absence of trust in others (‘I have always shook with fright before human beings.’) there is something very real and easily empathetic. In his youth, all those around him viewed him as a confident comedian, unshakable and affable but through his words we see just the opposite is true inside. ‘As long as I can make them laugh,’ Yozo writes, ‘I’ll be alright.’ It is a reminder that those who are smiling are not always happy, and that depression can lurk even in the most pleasant of people. The suicides or early deaths of despair within circles of comedians and entertainers, for instance, frequently came to mind while reading No Longer Human.

It also kept bringing a favorite song to mind: That’s Just The Way That I Feel by Purple Mountains (fronted by the amazing poet David Berman, rest in peace buddy). When this album first dropped I listened to this song every single day while walking to work. It was dark, yet darkly funny (c’mon, ‘I spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion’ is a PERFECT line and could also very well be said of Yozo) and sort of soothed the bad vibes I was living through at the time. When Berman decided it was time to depart this world a few months later, relistening to this song it slapped me in the face how present this impending end was all over the lyrics. He said it out loud, but it was only in retrospect how blatant it was. Knowing that Osamu Dazai would throw himself into the ocean in a double suicide not long after completing this novel, there is a certain ominous shadow cast over all the talk and acts of suicide that take place within the book.

But like David Berman’s song, I found this book to be darkly funny and oddly comforting at the beginning, poking fun at those with their fake smuggery and feeling quite understood about many anxieties or distastes for society. It’s hard not to get a chuckle at scenes such as when he joins the student communist group and is annoyed at all their lectures because he insists just basic math is all you’d need to know that capitalism was bad. I also certainly identified with his ‘desire to please born from my desperate mania for service,’ which reminds me why I thrive in customer service jobs like libraries and bartending: what Jean-Paul Sartre referred to as bad faith in his example of being a waiter can sometimes be a fun playacting to assuage imposter syndrome and annul your anxieties in order to make it through the work day. Yet the idealized, playacted self can never truly replace the real self, and the dissonance between the two will slowly eat away at you, day by day, fake smile by fake smile.

For someone like myself in whom the ability to trust others is so cracked and broken that I am wretchedly timid and am forever trying to read the expression on people's faces.

I find it difficult to understand the kind of human being who lives….purely, happily, serenely while engaged in deceit,’ he says, which sums up so much of his character. Yozo believes we are all self-deluding and that perhaps he is the only one honest enough with himself and society to truly grasp it. When questioning if he is capable of actual love he writes that he ‘should add that I have very strong doubts as to whether even human beings possess this faculty.’ Yozo is a rather passive person, and while he is able to live in character as his idealized self during his youth, the cracks between the real and the ideal begin to form in adulthood. This is only furthered through substance abuse and that his ‘last quest for love I was to direct at human beings,’ opens him up to pains that even drink and drugs cannot mask.

What, I wondered, did he mean by “society”? The plural of human beings? Where was the substance of this thing called “society”?

As Yozo more and more feels himself as an outcast, he begins to question exactly what it is that divides human society from those no longer human such as himself. Set in a post-war Japan, much of Dazai’s book critiques the modernization of Japanese society in the mid to late 1940s and what Yozo fears is becoming less an actual collective society for common good but one that is a society of the individual. ‘What is society but an individual?’ he asks, baffled by those who pretend it is anything but. Society, it seems, is only those who are productive and valuable for profits of others, but even here there is a hierarchy, much like Sayaka Murata’s modern critique on Japanese society in Convenience Store Woman examines how one can be an outcast even when being a high performer at their job simply because their job is not deemed valuable enough by society (the ironies of the pandemic lockdowns and the “essential workers” remaining at work were often low-wage grocery and other retail workers). Production and use-value are all that seem to be valued, and his idea of beautiful art for the sake of beauty is corrupted into making vulgar cartoons simply because they sell (and the profits can be used to consume more alcohol). Yozo views this shift in society as isolating people from one another, and even in his make-shift family with Shizuko and her daughter he cannot seem to believe they mesh as a ‘true’ family but merely he is an individual near them. In his failure to be a father figure, he has also failed to live up to the duties of a patriarchal society (and Yozo’s struggles with his own father may be Dazai’s criticisms of a patriarchal government as well).

Human beings...speak of duty to one’s country and suchlike things, but the object of their efforts is invariably the individual, and, even once the individual’s needs have been met, again the individual comes in. The incomprehensibility of society is the incomprehensibility of the individual.

This rather bleak portrait of the masks we wear in society does unfortunately also have a very gendered hierarchy that Yozo participates in. Much of the commentary on women is very problematic, and likely reflective of time and society. It is also here we start to see the weakness and cruelties in Yozo that he hides behind his affable nature and often ignores in his own scathing self-assessments. When his own wife is sexually assaulted, he criticizes her for becoming too timid and is more concerned that she might have been unfaithful to him elsewhere than actually worrying about her own emotional state and helping her. He leaves her, the asshole, and becomes the very thing he despises about a world that lets others collapse under the weight of a violent and selfish humanity. It becomes painful to watch his decline into the despicable, but perhaps Dazai is asking us should we not pity and aid even the most wretched? If not, are we any better than the evil people we criticize?

The “world,” after all, was still a place of bottomless horror.

This is certainly not a book for the faint of heart and really probes into the depths of humanity to directly into the darkest corners. ‘The one thing I must avoid is becoming offensive in their eyes,’ Yozo says, and we watch as he falters and falls into being that very thing. Yet this remains more a criticism of the postmodern world, of a society of the individual, and of a world that values profit over people and creates the snares to make others fall. A bleak yet oddly beautiful book.


After being hurt by the world so much, they began to see the demons within humans. So without hiding it through trickery, they worked to express it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
213 reviews158 followers
January 22, 2023
"Mine has been a life of much shame. I can't even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being."

No Longer Human tells the poignant and fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas. Someone who feels so detached from society and everyone around him that he feels he must pretend to be like them to avoid their wrath.

Oba Yozo, our protagonist, is a somewhat unlikable character. He is dark, he is miserable, he is monotone. He makes bad choices while blaming the world around him, and stands by and watches as people who trust him are abused. Yet his musings on what it means to be human and the alienation he feels have an uncanny authenticity. He lays bare all the ugliness and hypocrisy that define us. What does it mean to be human, to fit in? Does being human mean you're a good liar? Good at wearing the right mask at the right time?

Semi-autobiographical, this is the story of the author Osamu Dazai, one of the most significant narrators of Japanese literature and published shortly before his suicide.

The text is defined by the excruciating sadness that engulfed the author throughout his life. The action is fictitious, but the protagonist, Yozo, inherited many qualities from the creator.

This one goes to some very dark places but if you’re ok with that, I can't recommend it enough. There is so much to digest in this book. I know it won't leave my thoughts for a long while.

If you do decide to pick it up, don’t be surprised if you suffer an existential crisis while reading.

Highly Recommend
Profile Image for Adina.
800 reviews3,073 followers
July 11, 2022

I’ve been struggling how to rate this novel but the answer became clear to me when I started to write this review, one month after I finished it. I stared blankly in front of my computer, trying to remember what this book was about. I do not have a good book memory but it does not happen often to retain so few details about what I read so soon after I finished. As such, I cannot go higher than 2-2.5* since it left no lasting impression on me.

After some time, all I could remember about the story is that it recounts the life of a self-centered misfit who covers his misery by acting the clown with other people. He is extremely self-critical and does not consider himself human due to the way he deceives the people around him. Because of this duplicity, he succumbs to alcoholism and depression. It was a very bleak novel.

I am a bit tired of reading about these miserable, alienated men. It’s interesting once or twice but It’s getting old. Dostoyevsky, Hamsun, Camus, only to name a few that I’ve liked better.
Profile Image for Tim.
471 reviews595 followers
February 19, 2020

(Image taken from the Junji Ito manga adaptation of the novel... which I will also review later)

I do not like typing these words. This is something I hesitate to say during the best of situations, but I simply do not know how to review this book. This is... this book makes me feel like I got a glimpse of something I shouldn't have, and rather than putting it down and walking away, I continued reading someone's most private thoughts. Now obviously, Dazai intended these thoughts to be read, but one of the more uncomfortable aspects of the book is determining how much of it is actually autobiographical.

Dazai lived this book. He uses elements from his own childhood, covers his own depression and records some of his suicide attempts in the book.

Also, when he finished this public depression diary, he successfully committed suicide.

No Longer Human (which could also be translated as Disqualified From Humanity) is a book about depression. It follows a character named Ōba Yōzō from childhood and into adulthood, covering several events, and how he can't handle them from an emotional standpoint. To those looking at him from the outside, they see the classic jocular clown figure... for those of us seeing his inside thoughts, we see someone who is only a few steps away from killing himself at any given moment. Even when placed in a moment of something resembling happiness, it's always almost there.

Yes, this is an uncomfortable read to say the least. As someone who has fought with depression from a young age, this book is extraordinarily uncomfortable as Dazai catches so many of the feelings that go along with it. The self loathing, the sincere belief that other people's problems were probably caused by you, the self importance of your own pain, and viewing anyone else's problems only through your own. Those who have not experienced this may find our narrator a contemptible figure (as, indeed, he often is). Mostly I just viewed him with sympathy, even at his most loathsome, because no matter how much anyone else hates him, I assure you, he hates himself more.

Why is Yōzō so depressed?

Why is anyone? Sure he gives you hints about unpleasant things in his past (while he never outright says it, there is a strong implication that he was sexually abused as a child), but it really feels like even without past trauma, he would still be in the same place. The fact that he doesn't outright say it seems to be implying that as well. He makes no excuses. This is simply who and what he is.

This may also lead to one of the bleakest books I have ever read, though it is certainly does NOT go where I expected it to.

This book is considered a classic in Japan, yet it is not without its own controversy there. It's understandable why. This book captures a feeling not often expressed (and certainly not often expressed in 1948). It's a well written examination of depression, which makes it an extremely difficult read. It's the sort of book that I had to put down frequently, because I found myself overwhelmed, sliding into old unwanted thoughts. This is not a book to read if you're feeling even slightly down, as in a way it is dangerously insidious.

Do I like this book? Yes... and no. I think this is a book that is really damn hard to honestly "like." I think it's a book that could lead to some hell of negative thoughts depending on the reader's current state of mind... but I also think it is an important and powerful work because of that. Looking at this character, its easier to see where he's wrong in his thought processes, something harder to do when having similar thoughts of your own.

I give this book 4 extremely uncomfortable stars out of 5 and recommend only for those who feel prepared to witness this downward spiral.
Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews792 followers
July 31, 2015
Behind ballads of an orphaned heart,
Lay poetic trance of a love’s facade.
Dreads the ghostly art within hazy shades,
Human shame in comic masquerades.
Inebriated words coughing in notebooks
Empty sake bottles in curls of smoke,
Vice or virtue, the gullible spirit brags
Diabolical tales of a death mask.
“Everything passes”, cried the blue cradle
Slept, the wings of a fallen angel.

A solitary word blissfully prances from the anxious mind, fears the disintegration of its syllables; the distorted enunciation of its vowels, as it cautiously reaches at the tip of the tongue. The blooming word panicked by the stuttering mouth, bit by bit retreats in to the gloomy interiors of the mind where it will forever be sheltered, far from being judged by bullies and societal predators. A soft smile then becomes the sole redeemer of communication; a polite garb of inner festering trepidation. Alienation juxtaposes human “normalcy” and societal chaos in a silent sanctuary of individuality. Confrontations between personal wraith and societal norms arise, begging to fit in the human world. Human beings are a daunting race walking on a tight rope of the “survival of fittest” cryptogram amalgamating the belligerence of existence in the ugliness of societal wasteland where basic human depravity tumbles in the depths of existential despair.

“My life has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live a life of a human being...”

To live a life of a human being; what is it may I ask? The vision to live through one’s eyes or the obligation to exist through borrowed dreams? Is it to ideally march along with hypocrisy, duplicity, deception and the staunch societal dogma veiled behind a multifaceted mask conceding to the guidelines of human race. ? Does life become a shameless ruffian when one questions the truth behind the worldly sentiments? The clueless boy in the pictures failed to grasp the intricacies of human life. Horror and alienation that ran from through his childhood into the complexities of adulthood peeked through his clowning masquerades. A smile he thought would wipe all his trepidation and give him a homely asylum in a world that was bizarre and hellish. The “ghost pictures” screamed through the tinted strokes, rebelled the obligatory academia of a civil servant; a premonition of its owner’s potential caricature. The prostitutes that serenaded him at night were a respite from the vulgarity of love. “To fall” or “to be fallen”, were farcical words in the sense of morality and loyalty for love and yet complacent as an appendage of detached relationships. The suicidal waves of the soundless ocean were a home away from home. “Love flies out the window when poverty comes in the door” , he would proudly say as he sketched cartoons on a sheets of paper , unearthing moments of human warmth from alienation and despair ; the three lonely copper coins stiffening in his palm trying to apprehend the impoverished surroundings spiralling into tragic dissolution. “The dream of going on bicycles to see a waterfall framed in summer leaves” floated in the alcoholic fortification and in the defiled remains of Yoshiko’s trustfulness. Yozo was searching for the beauty that had somehow nastily escaped from the compassion of human connection. The veracity of the ‘ghostly’ art that had once saved his adolescence, the flamboyant imagination of the very art had crippled his adulthood

“People talk of “social outcasts.” The words apparently denote the miserable losers of the world, the vicious ones, but I feel as though I have been a “social outcast” from the moment I was born......”

“Social outcasts” is a preposterous terminology. Who decides its legitimacy? Who rewrites and deciphers the codes of classification? The word “outcast” is highly subjective in its entirety. If you ask ‘irrationality’ it would pinpoint ‘rationality’ as an outcast. To an illegitimate child, the legitimate one is a pariah; to insanity it is the realms of sanity; to the traces of dishonesty it is the advent of honesty; to trustfulness, betrayal is a sin; to imperfection it is perfection that is a recluse and to the morphine filled syringe, the glistening wine bottles are a social outcast. It is a game of endless antonyms. If one views the bigger picture, the world is full of social pariahs. In a superficial world crammed with recreational performers donning masks of assorted sizes and colours; Yozo’s acceptance of himself belonging to the socially recluse class struck a chord in my heart. I could finally comprehend the friendliness displayed by Yozo to the comparably designated populace. Each and every person that touched the core of Yozo’s life was a social pariah in their own struggling ways. Every one of them, be it Takeichi ,Horiki, Yoshiko, Tsuneko, the lady at the bar, the prostitutes or the peculiar Flatfish, all were battling various oddities and societal consciousness to be qualified as a noteworthy human being. After all, we all are outsiders to a few others in some or the other way. Even God is a social pariah to an atheist, isn't it?

“The incomprehensibility of society is the incomprehensibility of the individual. The ocean is not society; it is the individual.”

In this melancholic metaphorical quest of ‘what it takes to be termed as disqualified human’; the elegant Shishōsetsu literary piece is a semi-biographical sketch painting the undertones of existentialism in a portrait of alienation and societal crippling in the pursuit to achieve the solidarity of human subsistence. The greyish brush stokes of Yozo’s “ghost pictures” highlights Dazai’s life predicament with the incomprehensibility of the Japanese society and his personal familial position. Japan at large, along with his populace was standing on the brink of old and new cultural transformations. The state of affairs was stuck in between two diverse worlds where the country’s populace was adjusting in the cultural and personage pandemonium of adhering to the societal standards, yet finding ways to defy an unsympathetic societal doctrine. The individual becomes a society where in order to survive; one must adhere to the means of trickery and amateur dramatics shuffling between the societal chaos and normalization of basic humanity. It is known that sometimes lunacy is the only path to redeeming honesty, but with lunacy came the crime of rejection and abnormality. The weak are dispersed through suicidal suffrage in an impenetrable societal wilderness where child-like simplicity becomes a vice and livelihood becomes a sin punishable by the boisterousness of survival. The numerous societal boffins may critique the confounded life of Yozo comparing the inadequacies to the disposal tendencies of lethargy of an addict immersed in drug laced alcoholic trenches dangling on suicidal optimism as the ultimate salvage. Nevertheless, Yozo to me was a lost angel who could not find a path to walk along with the superficiality and convoluted nuances of humankind. Through all literary embellishment of euphemistic idioms and the utilitarian rationalities used to conciliate Yozo’s conundrum, Oba Yozo was worthy of love even with all his shortcomings. Reading, Dazai’s sombre yet gratifying prose consumed my sensibilities into scrutinizing Yozo and the world around him. How and when does a human being reach a stage where not only does the essence of his individuality vanishes amongst the darkest terrains of societal dogmas, but is terrified of its very own species? The definitive truth of human race, eventually "everything passes”, and so do the societal ghosts extant in self-punishing madness.

Profile Image for Stian.
86 reviews127 followers
July 7, 2018
Fails to deliver and didn't captivate me or draw me in in any serious way at all. Time passes, and things happen, but I feel like there's no reason for me to care. I don't feel anything reading this, and that's odd considering the topics dealt with. 177 pages blow by and leave no mark or trace at all. There are beautiful passages here, to be sure, but the book is, in my opinion, largely forgettable. Perhaps an issue with the translation?
Profile Image for human.
640 reviews961 followers
Shelved as 'tbr-plans-2021-classics-must-reads'
January 30, 2022
having watched bungo stray dogs, my need to read this is that much greater


fork, now i've gotta come up with a new username
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,214 reviews169 followers
October 27, 2020
this book, is just another motherfucker for me when i crusade in the holyland on one certain day

i can see why most of the japanese parents don't want their kids to read this book

here's some parts of my review (i don't know how i cud write this, maybe i was possessed by something at the time):

i am sorry for being a human

i need booze, i need drugs, i need vaginas, but i can quit them all at any time when i just need death

i don't need love, i don't need pride, i don't need duty, but it seems i am them all, cuz these are simply the evidence of living a life

however, what is a man, a humankind? it's merely a combination.

as for a single person, and all humanbeings, what are they for?

being a human is horrible because of its existence

they toil to make them stomaches filled up, to build subways to get things go quicker, to invent a pillow in order to have a nice sleep
cuz only the usefulness exists!

only a goal that creates powers to move forward!

only the things which have meanings that those can be understood
as to be consoled, console; to be loved, love

a man like me, who can't figure out the goal of finding the meaning of living or being a human. so am i qualified to live or to be a human?
when i cover my face to hide my wails, in laughs you say that i'm hypocritical

when i cough blood for having the consumption, you say that i'm pretentious and asking for it

so would you give me a mask to hide myself so that i can be as crude and brutal as you are?

or showing me with it to the world in means that i am a human who is just like you?
i'm not sure if you are a human or not and i really dont't give a cuss to that



i read the taiwanese translation first and gave out this damn review in English
Profile Image for J.
730 reviews430 followers
July 19, 2014
What is it with young men in so much Japanese literature? Whether it's Murakami, Mishima, Soseki, or Dezai they always come across as either lonely, shut-off or damaged (or some combination of the three). Yozo feels about as radically alienated from the world as any character could be. Even bitchy little Holden Caulfield never carried half as much angst as the main character in No Longer Human seems to have. And the loneliness he feels is all the more painful because of how deeply internalized it is, and how total his inability to communicate with others has become. Glum though it is, this book does do a really good job of showing how vast the chasm can be between what other people think about you, and what you think about yourself.
Profile Image for Jay.
43 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2020
Okay, I'll bite... we live in a society?

Not sure what can be said about this that hasn't already been said before. It is the last novel published by Osamu Dazai before he committed suicide in 1948. It is a "timeless" piece about the dangers of social conformity, but it utterly fails to deliver. 170 pages pass by in a breeze and none of it actually sticks with you, it's very contemporary and unimpactful--even if you know that this is basically the author's final goodbye.

The writing--particularly in the prologue--is utterly astounding, but it sadly is not enough to hold this plot-less book up. The prologue and first notebook show promise but by the first part of the third notebook you really don't even care for the speaker at all. He just feels sorry for himself and hates others for 170 pages; and for what? Because you got caught lying twice? is that why you're so insufferable, Yozo?

The way the speaker so flippantly expresses his hatred of women and sex-workers is rather grim, it's possibly the saddest part of this novel if I'm being honest. Not sure if my distaste for this book comes from the high expectations I had going into it when I had it recommended so much but, I don't know man, it's just not a great novel. It's rather flawed, misguided, and deceiving--much like the speaker is. 1.5 stars, but I can't in good conscience bump it up to 2 stars... Hopefully Junji Ito's adaptation has more substance to it...

Oh by the way, we live in a society.
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
711 reviews2,612 followers
March 5, 2023
ولأول مرة ميعجبنيش كتاب من الأدب الياباني!

ولم يعد رجلاً..رواية للكاتب الياباني اوسامو دازاي وهو يعتبر من أفضل روائي اليابان في القرن الحديث ..حاول الإنتحار مرات عديدة وإنتحر في النهاية مع صديقته بإغراق نفسهم وكان عمره ٣٨ عاماً..والكتاب هنا في جزء كبير في المقدمة بيتكلم عن حياته الشخصية بتفاصيلها ..

الرواية عبارة عن ٣ دفاتر أو نقدر نقول مذكرات بتتكلم عن حياة الشاب أوبا يوزو و تجربته مع الإدمان..المرض..علاقاته النسائية المتعددة ..ومحاولاته الفاشلة للإنتحار وأظن إن جزء كبير منها هو سيرة ذاتية للكاتب نفسه..

إسلوب الكاتب ممل و كئيب و الكتاب مليان طاقة سلبية وبؤس غير عادي...

مش من نوعية الكتب اللي بحبها ..جايز أكون قريته في وقت غير مناسب..بس لأ..مش حيعجبني في أي وقت الكتاب دة:)
Profile Image for Guille.
741 reviews1,448 followers
June 19, 2019

No es la primera vez que me refiero a este tipo de libros –el relato de un viaje a los infiernos de alguien malherido, resentido consigo mismo y con el mundo- como una de mis grandes debilidades literarias, y aun así nunca me he topado con un personaje tan negro por dentro y tan en carne viva por fuera, una especie de autista extrovertido si es que tal combinación es posible, si es que un personaje tan complejo y contradictorio como este Yozo que nos retrata Dazai en esta novela puede ser posible. Un personaje al que la preocupación de convertirse en adicto le hizo ir en pos de la droga.

Yozo es un joven procedente de las clases acomodadas japonesas, inteligente, guapo, con cierto talento para la pintura y con una sensibilidad tan desaforada que le convierte en alguien “condenado a ser cada vez más infeliz sin saber cómo evitarlo”. Negado para la amistad, negado para el amor, misógino, misántropo, “capaz hasta de olvidar el nombre de alguien con quien hice un pacto de suicidio”, capaz de asistir a la violación de su mujer sin hacer nada por evitarlo, el más mínimo roce lo daña, la más cotidiana e inocente interacción con el otro lo sumerge en el horror. Un ser que desde muy pequeño tuvo que interponer entre él y la temible cotidianidad, entre él y el infierno de un universo en el que impera la maldad, la doblez y la desconfianza, un disfraz autoimpuesto de payaso, de bufón que, curiosamente, le convierte en un ser encantador a ojos de todos y especialmente de las mujeres que en su presencia a cualquiera “le entran deseos irreprimibles de hacer algo por él”.
“Así mismo, la gente habla del «sentimiento de culpabilidad». En mi caso, me poseyó desde que era bebé y, con el tiempo, en lugar de curarse se hizo más profundo, penetrándome hasta los huesos. Pero, incluso si se podía decir que mi sufrimiento por las noches era el de un infierno de infinitas torturas, pronto se me hizo más querido que mi propia sangre y carne. Y me llegó a parecer la expresión de ese sentimiento de culpabilidad vivo o quizás su murmullo afectuoso.”
No se puede negar que a priori reunía todos los ingredientes necesarios para que este relato, de una infinita tristeza y desesperanza, me encandilase y, no obstante, pocas han sido las veces en las que ha conseguido alterarme como otros libros en la misma línea lo han logrado de forma más global.
Y aunque me descolocó bastante un derrape casi al final del relato en forma de descarga de responsabilidad que rompe con el hilo narrativo seguido hasta el momento, la causa de mi parcial desafección se debe achacar a la música. Esa música de la que habla Dostoievski en una carta a Turguenev refiriéndose a la obra que en esos momentos tenía entre manos y que no es otra que Memorias del Subusuelo, esa música que emana del texto, que nos envuelve y nos lleva a ese espacio particular y privado en el que nos convertimos en estrechos cómplices del autor y nos hace sentir con una inmediatez y una intensidad que exceden con mucho a la compresión literal del texto. Sí, debe ser esa música la que no he conseguido oír la mayoría de las veces que me he acercado a la literatura oriental, que ciertamente no han sido muchas, y que tampoco he conseguido escuchar en esta ocasión y, sin embargo, no puedo decir que no me haya gustado… claro, que el tema tratado facilitaba mucho las cosas.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,829 reviews653 followers
December 26, 2021
Caught between the past and the present a young man (Oba Yozo) finds that he is becoming more and more alienated from society and any sort of future. His decent into existential crisis is the reason why this book is so often compared to The Stranger by Albert Camus. Great book to read as an introduction to the modern Japanese novel.
Profile Image for bibi.
49 reviews
September 10, 2021
“I never could think of prostitutes as human beings or even as women. They seemed more like imbeciles or lunatics.”

“I have never been able to get interested when women talk about themselves. It may be because women are so inept at telling a story (that is, because they place the emphasis in the wrong places), or for some other reason. In any case, I have always turned them a deaf ear.”

This man was a loser
Profile Image for Liong.
120 reviews68 followers
February 17, 2023
I noticed this book many years ago and I always wanted to read it. But I always had a reason to postpone reading it and I don't know why. Don't ask me.

One day, my nephew in London bought this book and show me that he read it. I told myself that I must read it soon without delay since I like to read a lot of Japanese literature novels.

Sometimes I felt forlorn when I got into his novel and immersed myself in his story, especially the feeling and thoughts of the protagonist, Yozo, a depressed Japanese young man.

I concur that "No Longer Human" is not a cheerful book yet we can experience and go through a lot of real incidents in human life.

I had the same feeling when reading "On Human Bondage" by Maugham W. Somerset.

I love these 2 books as well. Moving, saddening, touching, pathetic novels.

Is it true that "Love flies out the window when poverty comes in the door"?
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,291 followers
March 6, 2022
الكثير من الأعمال الأدبية للكاتب الياباني أوسامو دازاي مأخوذة من سيرته الذاتية
أحداث حياته يمزج فيها الواقع بالخيال
الرواية هنا عن حياة انسان من الطفولة وحتى السقوط في دوامة الإدمان والمرض
طفولة مراوغة يُتقن فيها دور المهرج لاستمالة الآخرين
وفي الشباب يتخبط في علاقات نسائية وتجارب دراسية وسياسية بدون أي رغبة أو قناعة حقيقية
وكأنها مجرد مغامرات للتجديد والتسلية والخداع
تمر حياته في سلسلة متوالية من الأخطاء والإحباطات ومحاولات فهم الواقع والناس
ويعترف بطل رواية دازاي في النهاية بأنه سيظل مريض لا يشفى

الكاتب أوسامو دازاي شخصية متمردة
متمرد على العائلة والأعراف والتقاليد, على المؤسسة الأدبية في اليابان وحتى على نفسه
عاش حياة مضطربة ونجا من ثلاث محاولات للانتحار,وبرغم شهرته وشعبيته الكبيرة بعد الحرب
قام بإغراق نفسه في قناة تاما جاوا عام 1948, وكان في التاسعة والثلاثين من عمره

Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books25.2k followers
June 9, 2020
يجب أن تقرأ هذا الكتاب بالمقلوب؛ برؤية الخلفية، الغياب، الصمت، فحص ما لم يحدث، وما كان ينبغي أن يحدث قبل أن تبدأ الرواية حتى.

ما يحدث على خشبة النص يبدو مثل رد فعلٍ لغياب الأشياء؛ إنها طريقة بالغة التقليدية لإصابة المرء بإعاقة داخلية، عطب شديد يجعله عاجزًا عن الوجود في هذا العالم.

الحكاية الحقيقية هي كل ما لم تكتبه الرواية. هي حكاية الفتى الذي لم يحصل منذ البداية على مقومات الحياة، على الإذن بالحياة من عائلته.. وصار يتخبّط في العالم، مثل فأرٍ سقط في مصيدة.

اللغة جميلة، الترجمة أنيقة، لم يعجبني التصرّف في العنوان.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
40 reviews
July 9, 2021
I don't think there was one moment where I enjoyed reading this book. Maybe the end, when it finished. If you like depressed young men being sexist to women, this is the book for you. Not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,124 reviews1,625 followers
December 12, 2022

Le numerose versioni manga del romanzo.

Yozo, l’io-narrante, li definisce taccuini, ma forse diari rende meglio l’idea: divisi in parti che corrispondono a tre età della vita – grosso modo, infanzia, giovinezza, maturità- sono il racconto dei fatti della sua esistenza accanto a pensieri e riflessioni, sensazioni sentimenti emozioni.

Tutto passa. Questa è la sola e l’unica cosa che a parer mio s’avvicini alla verità, nella società degli esseri umani, dove ho dimorato sin oggi come in un inferno rovente. Ho compiuto ventisette anni. I miei capelli sono ancora più grigi. Molta gente direbbe che ho passato la quarantina.

Yozo non è adatto a questo mondo. E viceversa: il mondo non gli si confà.
Se non altro, questo mondo: niente esclude che nel multiverso ci sia il posto giusto per lui. Anche se la sua sembrerebbe proprio una difficoltà a esistere, a esserci. E, quindi, a prescindere da quale galassia e universo, Yozo non è felice, soffre, non si sente all’altezza, non si sente amato – anche se nel modo rigido della genitorialità di quell’epoca, lo era, amato intendo – e con epoca dobbiamo pensare al Giappone post bellico, dilaniato, devastato, bel oltre una semplice sconfitta, che è il periodo in cui il breve romanzo fu scritto (ma è invece ambientato prima del conflitto bellico) – non sa fare amicizia, sente di doversi camuffare, indossare una maschera – magari quella da capodanno che sua padre aveva tanto piacere a regalargli di ritorno da un viaggio di lavoro a Tokyo.

C’è qualcosa di quello che si usa definire decadentismo nel comportamento di Yozo e nel suo modo d’agire e reagire: uno spiccato senso estetico, spinto fin al punto da diventare castrante – attrazione e necessità di frequentare alcol, stupefacenti, localacci, posti sordidi, percepiti più veri di quelli familiari, e quindi più belli; difficoltà – leggi impossibilità – a fare amicizia. Compensata da una propensione verso il gentil sesso, a livello mentale percepito e considerato con profonda misoginia – che fa il paio con la sua generale misantropia – a livello emotivo e fisico invece percepito come l’isola del naufrago. Aggiungerei un generale senso di superiorità rispetto al resto dell’umana società, che maschera un generale senso di inferiorità.
Ma Yozo mi pare troppo impegnato a sopravvivere, a mascherarsi, a compiangersi per avvicinarlo al modello esistenzialista.

Per chi cerca il dato biografico dietro ogni pagina è un breve romanzo che sarà una festa: di analogie tra il vissuto di Yozo e quello del suo autore ce ne sono a iosa, cominciando dai tentativi di suicidio, anche in compagnia femminile (prima di quello definitivo, non ancora quarantenne, Dazai tentò di uccidersi cinque o sei volte, da solo e accompagnato).
Nonostante la prefazione che si adopera per sottolineare quanto Osamu Dazai sia legato alla cultura occidentale, forse più che a quella del suo paese, io ho ritrovato la mia annosa difficoltà con la letteratura di questa parte del mondo.
La traduzione è del 1962 e si sente, mostra tutto il tempo trascorso, varrebbe la pena svecchiarla, quello che credo abbia fatto la nuova edizione SE.

Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
659 reviews840 followers
December 13, 2021
“Mine has been a life of much shame. I can't even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being.”

Osamu Dazai - No Longer Human | There and back again

As people around him think he should feel lucky, Ōba Yōzō, the narrator of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human feels alienated. He believes himself to be an impostor who is performing his life or perfecting a role to play. He often succeeds at pretending to be "a mischievous imp" or "playing the clown" or, as he becomes an adult, taking on some other role. He considers this an accommodation to those around him. In his mind, this pretending disqualifies him as a real human being.

Osamu Dazai's semi-autobiographical work is deeply disturbing. Despite Yozo's increasingly self-destructive behavior, he avoids pity and continues to analyze his flawed condition. I was drawn into this work as I thought about what it means to be human. What dark parts of ourselves do we hide from even our closest friends? When we pretend to be happy or normal, who is being hurt by such a deception? Do we owe it to the rest of society to act in a certain way so that we can belong? Dazai approaches these questions of existence in a way that reminds me of Herman Hesse, but his analysis diverges down a much darker path more like Fyodor Dostoevsky or Albert Camus. I will return to this novel in the future. 4.5 stars

“I have always shook with fright before human beings. Unable as I was to feel the least particle of confidence in my ability to speak and act like a human being, I kept my solitary agonies locked in my breast. I kept my melancholy and my agitation hidden, careful lest any trace should be left exposed. I feigned an innocent optimism; I gradually perfected myself in the role of the farcical eccentric.”

“All I feel are the assaults of apprehension and terror at the thought that I am the only one who is entirely unlike the rest. It is almost impossible for me to converse with other people. What should I talk about, how should I say it? - I don't know.”
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,214 followers
April 18, 2011
At the very beginning of No Longer Human, Dazai lays out his narrator's plight in clear, stark terms:

Although I had a mortal dread of human beings I seemed quite unable to renounce their society. I managed to maintain on the surface a smile which never deserted my lips; this was the accommodation I offered to others, a most precarious achievement performed by me only at the cost of excruciating efforts within.

The narrator, Yozo, born into a wealthy political family in rural northeastern Japan, has left behind three notebooks - with three photographs to accompany them - as a means of explicating his life of complete and utter failure. The journals trace his alienated, terrified, and miserable meandering through an Imperial Japan that was made schizoid by the rushed and forceful collision between traditional Japanese culture and Western modernization, from his earliest memories as a bewildered, wary child to his final days as a Tokyo exile, a wizened, prematurely gray young man showing the full effect of the bruisings and buffets that an inimical and omnipresent life ceaselessly dealt out. Unable to connect to his family because he can't understand them; friendless because he is incapable of either trusting others or being trusted; scornful of women even as he squeezes every cent out of his broken lovers; irresponsible in every expectation of a regimented society - Yozo's only recourse to allay the anxiety and terror that daily waylay and murder his soul is in rivers of booze, pills, and flight. His agonizing inability to connect with the mysterious entities that have filled the world and constantly press against him forces him to assume the mask of a "clown" - cheap laughs and comical routines are what he believes appeases the hostility and hatred of humans, who otherwise would tire of his eccentricity and eliminate him from their presence.

Dazai has written a bleak and beautiful look at the anguish of the loner, the misfit, forever forced to look at himself in the mirror and spot nothing but his defects and disfigurements - yet at the same time, the reader also sees quite clearly that Yozo is narcissistic to the extreme, too lazy and resigned to make the slightest effort to help himself, terribly misogynistic to the parade of women who make sacrifices to save him, only to face the inevitable abandonment - even during a death pledge. Thus, compassion and contempt struggle as the book proceeds, each one alternately coming out on top. This dual-view is an integral part of No Longer Human: while Yozo sees himself as a fraud, a clown-caper performing his way through a midnight world, his few friends and family never abandon him, and several women fall deeply for him - they see him as a bright, cheerful, and funny young man, incredibly handsome and full of bright life. Which view is correct? Self-perception versus the perception of others is always a fascinating enigma, the crux of the grand theatre that comprises human life. Each individual presents a mask to the world - but he cannot control how others see that mask.

Donald Keene provides an elegant, succinctly expressive translation. Dazai's brisk, clipped sentences are replete with the wiry tension of his story; and in the midst of a page honed to a keen edge of melancholy, a wry, matter-of-fact humour will slyly insinuate itself into the sadness and lift the reader out of Yozo's despairing depths. Personal truths made universal are the glorious kernel of literature, and Dazai's truths for some, like myself, may cut so close to the bone that it hurts. Yet these truths also heal, and this dichotomy of pain and relief is what makes No Longer Human deeply human in every way.
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