Donald Keene

Donald Keene is a distinguished translator of Japanese. In 2002, he was presented with one of Japan’s highest honors, the “Person of Cultural Merit” (Bunka Koro-sha), for service in the promotion of Japanese literature and culture. In 2008, Professor Keene received the Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), which the Japanese Government presents to those who have greatly contributed to Japanese art, literature, or culture. He became the first foreign national to receive such an award.

Founded in 1986 at Columbia University, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture is named in honor of Professor Donald Keene, internationally renowned scholar and Columbia University teacher.

Professor Keene has published approximately 25 books in English, consisting of studies of Japanese literature and culture, translations of Japanese works of both classical and modern literature, a four-volume history of Japanese literature, and edited works including two anthologies of Japanese literature and the collection Twenty Plays of the Noh Theatre. Professor Keene’s Japanese publications include approximately 30 books, some written originally in Japanese, others translated from English.

The Setting Sun

Fiction by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Donald Keene

This powerful novel of a nation in social and moral crisis was first published by New Directions in 1956. Set in the early postwar years, The Setting Sun probes the destructive effects of war and the transition from a feudal Japan to an industrial society. The influence of Osamu Dazai’s novel has made “people of the setting sun” a permanent part of the Japanese language, and his heroine, Kazuko, a young aristocrat who deliberately abandons her class, a symbol of the anomie which pervades so much of the modern world.…
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No Longer Human

Fiction by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Donald Keene

Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being. 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. His 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.…
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Early Light

Fiction by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy Donald Keene

Early Light offers three very different aspects of Osamu Dazai’s genius: the title story relates his misadventures as a drinker and a family man in the terrible fire bombings of Tokyo at the end of WWII. Having lost their own home, he and his wife flee with a new baby boy and their little girl to relatives in Kofu, only to be bombed out anew. The father explains to his daughter: “‘Everything’s gone.…
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No Longer Human

Fiction by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Donald Keene

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.…
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The Setting Sun

by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Donald Keene

This powerful novel of a nation in social and moral crisis was first published by New Directions in 1956. Set in the early postwar years, it probes the destructive effects of war and the transition from a feudal Japan to an industrial society. Ozamu Dazai died, a suicide, in 1948. But the influence of his book has made “people of the setting sun” a permanent part of the Japanese language, and his heroine, Kazuko, a young aristocrat who deliberately abandons her class, a symbol of the anomie which pervades so much of the modern world.…
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