No Longer Human

New Directions Publishing
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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.
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About the author

Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) was a 20th century Japanese novelist.

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26 total

Additional Information

New Directions Publishing
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Published on
Jan 17, 1973
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Fiction / Literary
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This content is DRM protected.
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Osamu Dazai
The Tragedy of Hamlet is the consummate tale of an introspective melancholic struggling to come to terms with the world he lives in; it is no surprise, then, that artists like Goethe and Coleridge have identified with this tortured character over the centuries. As one of Japan’s most famous and troubled writers, Osamu Dazai, too, offered his own interpretation of Hamlet in his book Shin-Hamlet, or “A New Hamlet.” This book was published in 1941 during Dazai’s middle period and it marks a significant development in the career of the writer as he worked toward lengthier works that culminated in his classics Shayo (“The Setting Sun,” 1947) and Ningen Shikkaku (“No Longer Human,” 1948). It is a significant work that has never been published in English before.

Dazai’s Hamlet is a passive character in a whirlwind of schemers. It is clear that, in typical autobiographical fashion, Dazai is writing about himself in this book. There are allusions to his troubled university days (when he failed to graduate) his difficult relations with women (Gertrude and Ophelia are both strong, manipulative characters in this work, while the men are weak and indecisive) and his own distressed psyche (he committed suicide in 1948). The strong theme of adult hypocrisy brings to mind a bildungsroman more than a tragedy. It is also significant to note that this book was completed in 1941, right around the time the Pacific War began. The conflict between Denmark and Norway in A New Hamlet is reminiscent of the outbreak of war between Japan and America. Dazai was never outwardly critical of militaristic Japan, but this work could be interpreted as a commentary on the government’s corruption. In addition, the character of Polonius, who ambivalently is both the supporter of young idealists and the right-hand man of an oppressive leader, reminds one of the publishers that had to comply with stringent censorship laws at the time. One wonders if Dazai is writing about the editors or critics he would have dealt with. All in all, there are many facets to this work that give it a particular enjoyment that is distinct from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Dazai’s work is incredibly humorous despite the darkness of his themes, and keeps the reader reading all the way to the end.

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