Osamu Dazai

Osamu Dazai was born in 1909 into a powerful landowning family of Northern Japan. A brilliant student, he entered the French Department of Tokyo University in 1930, but later boasted that in the five years before he left without a degree he had never attended a lecture. He attempted suicide in 1935, leaving behind an envelope of stories which he expected to be posthumously published as The Declining Years. His early works are filled with invention and wit, but it was after the war that he reached his full stature, first with the short story, “Villon’s Wife” (translated by Donald Keene and published in New Directions 15) and then with The Setting Sun, which created an immediate sensation when it was published in 1947. The phrase, “people of the setting sun,” referencing the phrase “land of the rising sun,” came to be applied to all the Japanese impoverished and dislocated by the war, the succeeding inflation and land reforms. It entered into common usage and even has appeared in dictionaries. Dazai published a second novel, and was publishing a third serially, when he committed suicide by throwing himself into the swollen waters of the Tamagawa Reservoir in Tokyo. His body was found on what would have been his 39th birthday: June 19, 1948.

The Flowers of Buffoonery

Fiction by Osamu Dazai

Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett

The Flowers of Buffoonery opens in a seaside sanitarium where Yozo Oba—the narrator of No Longer Human at a younger age—is being kept after a failed suicide attempt. While he is convalescing, his friends and family visit him, and other patients and nurses drift in and out of his room. Against this dispiriting backdrop, everyone tries to maintain a lighthearted, even clownish atmosphere: playing cards, smoking cigarettes, vying for attention, cracking jokes, and trying to make each other laugh.…
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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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What I despise about Dazai is that he exposes precisely those things in myself that I most want to hide.
—Yukio Mishima
Dazai was an aristocratic tramp, a self-described delinquent, yet he wrote with the forbearance of a fasting scribe.
—Patti Smith
What I despise about Dazai is that he exposes precisely those things in myself that I most want to hide.
—Yukio Mishima
Dazai offers something permanent and beautiful
The New York Times Book Review
No Longer Human is his masterpiece, though all his work is worthy. Dazai was an aristocratic tramp, a self described delinquent, yet he wrote with the forbearance of a fasting scribe.
—Patti Smith
Dazai offers something permanent and beautiful.
The New York Times Book Review
I like Dazai a lot.
—Wong Kar-Wai
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