No Longer Human – Osamu Dazai

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.

Cover painting by Noe Nojechowiz, from the collection of John and Barbara Duncan; design by Gertrude Huston

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