No Longer Human (New Directions Book.) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1973/6
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Portraying himself as a failure, the protagonist of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human narrates a seemingly normal life even while he feels himself incapable of understanding human beings. Oba Yozo's attempts to reconcile himself to the world around him begin in early childhood, continue through high school, where he becomes a "clown" to mask his alienation, and eventually lead to a failed suicide attempt as an adult. Without sentimentality, he records the casual cruelties of life and its fleeting moments of human connection and tenderness.
Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841, and the definitive multi-volume history of Japanese literature, Sources of Japanese Tradition.
「人間失格」はもう暗記するほど読み込んでいましたが、この「No Longer Human」と一文一文照らし合わせていくとさらに読み深めることができて、ますます精読した気分です。
Amazon.com で最も参考になったカスタマーレビュー (beta)
This novel (inspired by Dazai's autobiography and written in the first person) tells the story of one person who feels since childhood utterly alien from his fellow human beings but learn to put a face to hide his deep sense of alienation and his despise for the hypocrisy of society. He feels incapable to belong to a human society (hence the title). Follows a descent into alcohol, drugs, suicide as the main character enters into aldulthood.
The story did remind me a little of Camus' The stranger (l'etranger) in so far as both are a tale of a person alienated from the society at large. But Dazai also explore the sense of self-loathing and self-destruction and is therefore much darker (Camus sounds cheerful in comparison).
Dazai is known as a dark post-war writer and indeed this is a dark novel.
Told through some lost journals, it is the tale of Oba Yozo, a Japanese boy of some privilege and a descendant of a locally affluent family. Yozo, from a very young age, finds himself befuddled by the actions of human beings. Specifically, human beings in the aggregate disturb him; social interaction cripples him, and his inability to understand society forces him to take up the mantle of the jester, the buffoon, a role that, when seen historically, obtains properties of social transgression. This role continues until Takeichi, a classmate of his, points out that his buffoonery is not accidental - as Yozo wishes the world to think - but manufactured. A young Yozo grows stiff with terror; someone has seen through his facade. His interactions with Takeichi occupy a few brief pages in the short book, but they go on to frame the rest of the novel.
At the core, this is a book about depression, alienation, and trauma. Little fanfare has been made over this book's inclusion of male sexual trauma (or, really, sexual trauma in general); but it necessarily contributes to the psyche of the protagonist. And that core is what makes the book so relatable; I hesitate to claim it universally appealing, but it certainly will seem instantly familiar to anyone who has struggled with societal interaction. This relatability is tragic; it is as tragic as the ending of this book, upon which we leave the suffocating sphere of Yozo's thoughts and see him through the eyes of others. Unlike The Stranger, we see here no philosophical denunciation, correction, or indictment. This is a book of quiet devastation and unresolved pain. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This book is obviously intended for a mature audience due to the explicit subject matter involving drugs, alcohol, sex, and prostitution. I think the author's objective in writing this novel is to open the eyes of those who read it. Although the character of Yozo seems odd and quirky, the reader can't help but feel enlightened by his way of seeing things. On several instances I found myself thinking he was in fact a genius for seeing things in such a different way than the average person. This of course would make me the ordinary person. Although as Yozo points out in the book, genius is often mistaken for madness and I suppose it goes the other way as well.
Along with enlightenment comes the sad realization that perhaps it is his ability to see the truth in people that causes him such horror. He knows that people put on false fronts in order to fit into society and because of this one can never truly trust another person. I admit even I can scare myself when I over analyze the fact that you can truly never know another person's thoughts or intentions. Yozo however takes this to extremes and relies on vices to keep his mind from scaring him to death.
I found this book almost impossible to put down. It is a story like no other I have ever read. I found the story captivating. I think part of what kept me interested was wondering if Yozo would ever feel comfortable in his own skin. I almost felt sorry for him and hoped he might find even the slightest bit of happiness. Of course any small bit of happiness he found he would pay for ten fold with misery, which was his nature. Overall I found the book very eye-opening, even though the ending did not have much of a climax.
I won't just summarize the book, because Amazon already has a short summary. I will recommend it to anyone who struggles to understand depression, trauma, alcoholism, and suicide. On the flip side, if those things upset or distress you you may not wish to read this. It is an excellent example of how depression can feel, how it breaks a person down, how a man can feel completely useless in society, and how some people can choose to face these things in ways that others don't understand.
It's an important and powerful work both as a look into the psychology of one man and as a cultural touchstone for post-war Japan. Oda, the narrator and stand-in for Dazai himself, is from an aristocratic background and faces all of the pressure and expectations associated with the Japanese high culture. To complicate this, Oda himself is deeply depressed from a young age and is unable to connect with others or to even develop a sense of humanity.
Physically, the copy I received was in great shape, and the build quality is nice. The cover design is almost violently pink and the pages are a decent weight for a paperback. Bizarrely, the text is set in what appears to be a boldface font for the majority of the book. This may annoy some readers.
Overall, I think this is an intriguing and powerful work that would appeal to people interested in historic, personal examples of depression and abnormal psychology or developing a deeper appreciation for Japanese culture through literature.
(According to my Japanese teacher), the original Japanese word, "犯す," would be understood by the reader to mean "sexually violated" or "raped."
The translator, Donald Keene, is a very, very well-respected translator, and he did a superb job; I just wish he hadn't used a word like "violate," which is so open to different interpretations, when the meaning was pretty explicit in the original.