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.
Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) was a 20th century Japanese novelist.
「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。
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The narrative begins with Yozo as a child and carries reader all the way through to his adulthood. Infiltrated with darkness and self-deprecation, he tries to find escapes and assuage his inner pain with jesting antics, alcohol, drugs, women, and even suicide. His life is suppressed by the staggering feeling of the inability to understand his fellow man and even more incapable of relating to them. His alienation is largely self-inflicted because of its deeply rooted internalization. It is a sorrowful life for the reader to watch play out because it seems to be one where potential for a better life may be possible around every corner, but the self-deprecating dark spirit within him overpowers his ability to see it otherwise. With any small glimmer of hope, the reader gets to watch it be shattered and is downcast at this outcome. Takaichi sees through his ploy of hiding behind his jester-like antics and being found out internally terrifies him to a breaking point. This is his only true friend in the story. Yozo finds that even having a wife is not the saving grace for pulling him from his self-alienating perspective of his place in life and personal depression.
There is no resolution to this book but leaves one lost with his or her own self-reflection and thoughts. Throughout the novel, I found myself rooting for him, wanting him to turn a corner with more than a mere glimpse of pleasantness in his place in the world, but that dream never came to fruition. It is well-written in its ability to make one identify or unidentify with what Yozo experiences. Quirky, did not trust people. His way of seeing the world is interesting and allows the reader to understand more and more his reality of feeling alienated to the more normal ways of society.
The plot unfolded slowly, while chronologically revealing Yozo’s deepening depression through his involvement with various women and a drinking friend, Hiroki. Hiroki is someone tolerated by Yozo for passing his unhappy days in a bottle of gin. Yozo’ only real connection to another human being is with Takeichi, a child classmate. Takeichi discovered Yozo’s intent for comedy and Yozo, out of fear, begins to associate with Takeichi on a slightly more personal level. This friendship, however, does not last after graduation. The dynamics of Yozo’s relationship with various women sometimes offer hope for a twist in the story. However, every relationship ends with a steeper fall into depression and drinking. One liaison ends with a failed double suicide, reminiscent of the author’s own life. Finally, I was offered some hope when Yozo encountered the innocent Yoshiko. Yoshiko, a seventeen-year-old, trusting girl becomes Yozo’s wife. Her faith in him is still not enough to brighten his morbid outlook toward humanity.
This is the first of Dazai’s works which I have read. I found his themes of solitude, guilt, and decadence as universal themes. Yozo’s comical facade, Hiroki’s haughty attitude, and even Yoshiko’s unyielding trust are all masks they wear to hide their own disconnectedness. Many times in the novel Yozo questions God and his own existence. There is little symbolism in the novel. The structure is a continuous story told in the first person point of view. It almost reads like a biography of a psychologically disturbed person. Other than the mention of kimonos and locations in Japan, the story could have taken place anywhere. There were many references to western literature and culture.
As for my opinion of the work, I found it unsatisfying until the epilogue. After reading the epilogue, I understood how others could see Yozo as “an angel”. He was so desperate to feel like a human being that most of his actions were in service of someone else. The only statement in the book that really struck me as profound is when Yozo asked himself “What is society but an individual?”. If society won’t approve of something, does that make it wrong? I think this statement hit me so hard because I could apply it to my own life. Would I, in the 1940’s, been considered an outcast? How many individuals does it take to make a society that will judge who is upstanding and who is… No Longer Human?