Title: No Longer Human
Author: Osamu Dazai
Publisher: New Directions
Buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
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.
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.
Hauntingly good yet incredibly depressing.
This is a semi-autobiographical book classified as fiction as the author, Dazai, creates the character, Yozo, who is destructive, to tell his story through. This is all recorded through journals that the character keeps.
From the beginning, we find the character disassociates himself from others by referring to everyone as Human Beings. What was fascinating, is that he embarks on the character of these humans, what they say, how they feel, and how they hurt and it is he, according to himself, that is a failure of being human.
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.’No Longer Human – Osamu Dazai
As I read this book, the word truth jumped out to me. And as I completed the book, the word truth was front and center. It made me pause and ask myself, what is the truth we tell ourselves? What is the truth others are willing to accept? What is truth? Even in all his truth, others were not willing to accept it. As one character notes “Some parts are rather exaggerated…”
This was a fantastic, simple and light read. I was captivated by Yozo and could not put the book down. And being that it was semi-autobiographical, it pulled me in to find more about the author and add more of his works, at least those translated, to my reading list. If you like reading dark characters, embarking on self-destruction, with a healthy critique of their society, then this book may be for you.