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No Longer Human
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(Good 'Ole) Summertime in Japan > No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

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Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human

...set in the post-war, technologically advanced society of Japan, this novel takes the form of three notebooks in which the protagonist Oba Yozo, describes his unhappy life from youth to adulthood.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 19 comments There's a young adult series by Mizuki Nomura about a girl who solves mysteries with the help of literature. The first volume is based upon No Longer Human and contains a great discussion about Dazai's life and the book's place in his body of work. One of the things the heroine points out is that because the novel's so dark and Dazai committed suicide after writing it, people tend to think of him as a dark and troubled individual and assume all his works are similar, when in truth much of his work is quite funny and cheerful.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Sean wrote: "There's a young adult series by Mizuki Nomura about a girl who solves mysteries with the help of literature. The first volume is based upon No Longer Human and contains a great discussion about Daz..."

Mizuki Nomura's Book Girl series, beginning with the mystery novel Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime goes very well with No Longer Human. Thks.


message 4: by Deej (new)

Deej | 4 comments I can't get this on my kindle :( ever since my brother bought me a kindle I've been v reluctant to buy fiction in the good old format, even though I still love paper books and bookstores... But when you don't have a lot of room, ebooks are kinda useful!


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Vshadow wrote: "I can't get this on my kindle :( ever since my brother bought me a kindle I've been v reluctant to buy fiction in the good old format, even though I still love paper books and bookstores... But whe..."

It's 2 bad that Kindle, Nook, etc. didn't digitize it because it's a blockbuster bestseller in Japan, I've read on the internet. Also, Usamaru Furuya adapted it into a manga No Longer Human, part 1, part 2, part 3 to honor Osamu Dazai's hundredth birthday.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 19 comments It's up to the publisher to create ebooks, and unfortunately the companies that focus on Japanese novels have been slow to make the jump, though that is changing -- Tuttle just digitized their entire library a couple months ago, Vertical put out their first ebook recently, and Yen is releasing the Haruhi Suzumiya series digitally when the next volume comes out. But Kurodahan, Dark Horse and (ironically) Digital Manga are still behind the curve.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Sean wrote: "...Tuttle just digitized their entire library a couple months ago, Vertical put out their first ebook recently, and Yen is releasing the Haruhi Suzumiya series digitally when the next volume comes out...."

The e-readers take the backache out taking books to and from the library.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 19 comments A number of writers we've read or will read for this group were active during the same period. Kawabata, for instance, was Mishima's mentor and helped arrange his marriage. Mishima's relationship with Dazai, alas, wasn't so positive. I recently stumbled across two separate accounts of Mishima talking smack about Dazai. First is from Jay Rubin's Making Sense of Japanese:

You probably learned itadaku as the normal humble verb for eating and drinking... You learned, too, that there is an honorific verb, meshiagaru, to be used in reference to the eating and drinking of others to whom you are speaking politely. You yourself can never meshiagaru, only honored guests and the like can do that when you are speaking to or about them.

If, indeed, you have learned all this, then you would have been just as surprised as I was the other night at a Seattle sushi bar when the young sushi chef, a recent arrival from Japan, politely asked me at the end of the meal, "Orenji itadakimasu ka?"

In his mind, no doubt, this was the polite way of asking me whether I wanted to eat an orange for dessert. It was, indeed, "polite," but in the wrong direction... What he was really asking me was, "Would you like to humbly receive an orange from my lofty self?" I blinked and smiled and got a sweet, juicy and cleverly sliced orange in return.

I was tempted to chalk this one up to the increasingly scandalous unfamiliarity of the younger generation with proper modes of speech that one hears and reads complaints about, mostly from the older generation. Then it occurred to me that there was something familiar about this, something that went all the way back to the immediate postwar period.

In 1947, Dazai Osamu (then 38) published his novel Shayou (The Setting Sun), which was a sensational bestseller and bequeathed its name to a generation of declining aristocrats. Unfortunately for Dazai, one writer who identified strongly with those aristocrats, Mishima Yukio, ridiculed the book for its utterly uninformed portrait of the upper crust. His most damning peice of evidence was Dazai's use of itadaku where he should have used meshiagaru.


Then we have this bit from John Nathan's
biography of Mishima:

Mishima's only meeting with Dazai, in January 1947, is now a famous incident in Japanese literary history. A circle of fledgling writers had persuaded Dazai to join them for an afternoon of talk and drinking... Mishima went along with a young playwright named Yashiro, an avid admirer of Dazai's. The bottles were passed from mouth to mouth, Dazai proceeded to get quite drunk at once, and the others followed. Mishima, who did not drink, sat stiffly apart watching in silence. Abruptly, during a drunken lull in the conversation, he moved forward to confront Dazai, looked him straight in the eye and said, smiling, "I don't like your writing." According to Mishima, describing the encounter sixteen years later, "Dazai peered at my face and then drew back slightly, looking as if he had been caught off his guard. But he recovered instantly and, turning halfway toward Kamei, said to no one in particular, 'But he's here, isn't he, so he must think I'm pretty good; he must like what I do or he wouldn't be here.'"

The playwright Yashiro says that this exchange, or one very like it, did occur. He remembers that Mishima left shortly afterward and that a few days later he came to tell him that his association with "a man like that" could only do him harm. In Mishima's account he writes that he had gone to see Dazai expressly to tell him to his face that he disliked him, and describes himself arriving "with a dagger hidden in the folds of [his] robes, like a terrorist." Specifically he abhors Dazai's "shameless self-caricature," the "affected Christ-like face visible" behind every page, his "confident pride that he was representative of the malaise of the Age," in short, Dazai's "glorification of despair." But Mishima does not stop with listing the qualities in Dazai he cannot abide; he seeks to explain why they so repulsed him:

"Naturally I recognize Dazai's rare talent; and yet I know of no other writer who from my very first contact with him filled me with so violent a physiological revulsion. Possibly . . . this was due to my immediate sense that Dazai was a writer at pains to expose precisely that which I most wanted to conceal in myself."



message 9: by Betty (last edited Jun 18, 2012 09:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Sean wrote: "A number of writers we've read or will read for this group were active during the same period. Kawabata, for instance, was Mishima's mentor and helped arrange his marriage. Mishima's relationship w..."

The biographical movie about Mishima, "Mishima, a life in four chapters"" depicted his self-destructiveness, which might be that side of himself he wanted to hide from view; whereas Dazai's "No Longer Human" apparently deals with that topic, however I am still reading it. Other subjects, like Communism and drinking, Mishima and Dazai did not share those penchants, being on opposing sides in that respect. There also is the difference in their sexual orientations. Mishima hid his homosexuality; whereas Dazai was married, perhaps happily.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments This autobiographical novel is written in the form of a first-person journal, divided into notebooks, aka memorandum. Separating Yozo's narrative into four parts, they apparently derived from its serialization.

When reading "No Longer Human", what meaning(s) does the title have?

Someone discovered Yozo's journal and reads it to the reader?!


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments Having just read "No Longer Human" I noticed that the narrative portrayed an alienated child and young man in 1930's Japan. His written Notebooks depict a maladjusted personality relative to the quotidian world. Some relationships negated his will power, so that he fell into chronic drinking and drug-taking.

The protagonist Yozo says somewhere that art-for-art's sake or art-for-beauty's sake extraordinarily pleased him. He liked that rarified world. He wasn't only rationally asserting that opinion. When a beautiful building was only regarded by other people for its functionality, that apperception plummeted his spirits and dismayed his understanding. His super-sensitivity found a penchant for an artist's/cartoonist's career.

Other parts of this story for scoping out include: his upbringing, father, and brothers; his guarantor Flatfish, his relationships with women. His best psychological stability was with a rare, exceedingly trusting, innocent character.


message 12: by Betty (last edited Jun 24, 2012 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments During my reading this novel, I wondered whether anyone of my youthful acquaintances had displayed Yozo's clowning persona to hide fear of new circumstances and people in high school and college. That compensation to mask insecurity probably happened often during adolescence.

A likable characteristic of this novel is Yozo's stories about the instances of his jesting. That somebody (Takeichi & the D.A.) detected his playacting totally surprised and horrified him because his jesting brought respect from fellow students.

The novel reads like a diary. He recorded his memories in these three Notebooks. In Japanese literary criticism, his confessional style of the 1920s is called the "I novel".

The sorrow in the burden of "shame" Yozo carried at that time because of his early, extreme timidity made his clowning both amusing and pitiful. Life experience through his learning small talk around people and navigation around Tokyo did raise his confidence.

His life story tells also about his experiences with many woman. His good looks easily attracted women.

In "The First Notebook", his alienated individuality is repeatedly mentioned.
...discovering that my concept of happiness seemed to be completely at variance with that of everyone else.

...not the remotest clue what the nature of extent of my neighbor's woes can be.

I am the only one who is entirely unlike the rest.
In "The Second Notebook", Takeichi becomes Yozo's high school friend, and Yozo, continuing to tell comic stories, discovers a strong interest in painting pictures and drawing cartoons of an Impressionistic style. In college, Yozo and worldly-wise, lone Horiki become friends. Horiki initiates him in drinking, drugs, tobacco, women, pawnshops, and the Communist party. Horiki's rebuff of Yozo's girlfriend makes Yozo realize his love for the first time with Tsuneko.

Yozo is more human than he is aware of. That is pointed out by a police investigator when Yozo feels gloomy after Tsuneko's death.
That's human nature, I guess.
At this time, Yozo shows signs of serious illness. A new character now enters the story. Flatfish, described by the physical impression he makes on Yozo, becomes important in "The Third Notebook".


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3612 comments A surprising Epilogue brings in an unnamed author-figure in 1945, giving a brief history about Yozo's Notebooks and photographs through that figure's encountering the story's former bar-owner madam as a coffee-shop proprietor, who received by mail the unidentified package in 1935.

One must wonder how Yozo developed into a sensitive, passive, intimidated child and young man without a strong will and with a dread of human beings. Though tormented by fears of people and places ("a bottomless horror"), he grows by experience and reflection to act more confidently. For example, he lessens his fearfulness after having separated scientific possibility from actual probability. His interesting philosophical meditations about human society and individuals put his angst in perspective.

Although the author Dazai's life ended tragically, this novel ends more upbeat through a lifesaving oversight by Yozo's housekeeper and through an ultimate insight by Yozo:
Everything passes.

That is the one and only thing I have thought resembled a truth in the society of human beings where I have dwelled up to now in a burning hell.

Everything passes.



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