Author: Osamu Dazi
Genre: Japanese Literature
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
*I’m not going to deeply analyze No Longer Human, this will be a simple review*
I have a lot of mixed feelings about No Longer Human, it’s been on my bookshelf for several years and the author was recommended to me by a friend. I bought the book and forgot about it. I was unhauling a couple books before I started my April TBR list, and found No Longer Human. I decided to read it.
How can I describe my reading experience? It was not a fun ride. I’m not going to lie, but the book was very dark. It took me a while to finish it because it had mature themes. Depression is not something a person would want to experience. You feel alienated by the world, you feel as if society has gone against you. It’s a troubling state to be in. I’ve been there, and I don’t want to go back. So when I read this book, the feelings that main character experienced really hit home.
No Longer Human is told in three parts. It starts off with Yozo’s childhood. Yozo is the youngest child coming from a wealthy family, and as a young child he realizes that he has to put on a persona in order to please his family. He claims to be a clown in order to be accepted.
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.
He realizes that at a young age, he is not fit for society. Yozo has no connections with family and has a lack of friends. Everyone around he seems to believe in his facade. He keeps up the clown persona for several years. Yozo is in fact terrified of humans, and constantly is on guard of his feelings. Yozo is an outcast.
As the years go by, Yozo is regarded as intelligent and good looking. From an outsider’s perspective, Yozo would have a promising future. That is not the case. Yozo suffers from a downward spiral. He used to attend school, but lost all motivation for it. His father used to give him allowance money to maintain lifestyle. Yozo is quite wealthy until he meets his “best friend” Hiroki, a city dweller who eventually teaches him the pleasures of life, such as drinking alcohol and sleeping women. Day in and day out, Yozo lives his luxurious lifestyle of drinking and sleeping with women until his father stops his allowance. Yozo is forced to live independently, but Yozo can’t manage to survive on his own.
Yozo has never experienced happiness. He can’t relate with others. Women are always drawn to Yozo because they view him as sensitive, troubled, down on his luck because of his misfortunes and he is also a bit of a bad boy. He uses women to his advantage as a means to survive. He stated that he has only loved one woman, but yet has a difficult time recalling the time he spent with her. Yozo has attempted suicide and has failed. On other hand, the woman he loved was successful in committing suicide by drowning. He wrecks his life, and no one seems to help him. Yozo is an unreliable narrator. There are some instances within this book where it seems that Yozo is finally going to turn his life around, but he sabotages in the end.
Now, I read the english translation of this work. The synopsis has stated that this book deals with the Western influence in Japan, but I saw none of that. This story was more semi-autobiographical than anything else. After finishing the book, I looked up the author’s biography and what happened in his life is very tragic. Osamu Dazai has tried to commit suicide several times throughout his life. After No Longer Human was published, he finally succeeded in committing suicide. As I’ve mentioned before, this book is dark and there were moments when it was sad, but I did not cry. I would recommend reading this book if you are a fan of the manga called Oyasumi Punpun. I wouldn’t recommend reading No Longer Human to a younger audience. There is also an anime, live action, and a manga based on No Longer Human. After reading No Longer Human, I read the manga by Usamaru Furuya (Lychee Light Club) and the manga is only three volumes, so check it out.
- “Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness.Everything passes.
That is the one and only thing that I have thought resembled a truth in the society of human beings where I have dwelled up to now as in a burning hell.
- “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 ever I meet someone society has designated as an outcast, I invariably feel affection for him, an emotion which carries me away in melting tenderness.”
- “I thought, “I want to die. I want to die more than ever before. There’s no chance now of a recovery. No matter what sort of thing I do, no matter what I do, it’s sure to be a failure, just a final coating applied to my shame. That dream of going on bicycles to see a waterfall framed in summer leaves—it was not for the likes of me. All that can happen now is that one foul, humiliating sin will be piled on another, and my sufferings will become only the more acute. I want to die. I must die. Living itself is the source of sin.”
Final Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️