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Schoolgirl (Modern Japanese Classics) by…

Schoolgirl (Modern Japanese Classics)

by Osamu Dazai

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Short, captivating, nuanced and beautiful. A girl dealing with self-awareness as she grows into adulthood. ( )
  obbykip | Oct 27, 2017 |
I picked this book up randomly at the library yesterday, I rarely (if ever?) read novellas. I should, because this was absolutely beautiful. Rather than a story, it's a stream of consciousness as a young girl goes through her day. Her mind switches from this thought to that thought, and much like anyone of us, her mood and feelings shift through out the day. "Generations of young people in Japan have found that he [Osamu Dazai] seems to speak for them, expressing what they feel in their own language" writes Rachael Hutchinson in the foreword. I can completely understand this, as I feel much the same myself. I can't really explain why I like it so much, apart from what I've said already. It's beautiful, and it's true. I would really like to reread this in the future. ( )
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai is a short book of less than 100 pages from One Peace Books and is translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell. The novella, which reads more like a narrative poem, has readers spend the day with a teenage girl who is adjusting to life after the death of her father and as a blossoming women in a post-WWII Japan. Readers clearly see the clash between traditional Japanese customs of women who are quiet and subservient to others needs with the young woman’s need to express herself and be an individual.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2012/01/schoolgirl-by-osamu-dazai-translated-by-alli... ( )
  sagustocox | Jan 17, 2012 |
Osamu Dazai's novella Schoolgirl was one of his breakthrough works as an author. Dazai is best known for his short novels The Setting Sun and No Longer Human, both of which I have read and enjoyed, No Longer Human being my personal favorite. I was very pleased to learn that One Peace Books recently published a new translation by Allison Markin Powell of Dazai's earlier work and was even more pleased when I was offered a review copy of the book. Originally published in Japan in 1939, Schoolgirl has been translated into English at least two other times (once by Lane Dunlop in 1992 and once more previously by Ralph F. McCarthy in 1988), neither of which I have read, making Powell's translation the first I've had the opportunity to enjoy. Schoolgirl is also the first volume in One Peace Books' new Modern Japanese Classics series which will continue to feature novellas as well as longer works of literature.

Schoolgirl follows the day in the life of a Japanese teenager in the late 1930s from the moment she wakes up until she once again falls asleep. She tells her own story candidly, more for herself than for anyone who might be prying. I'm not always a fan of stream-of-conscious storytelling, but Schoolgirl flows naturally and remains engaging throughout the novella. As the story progresses, the girl reveals her desires from petty wishes to more substantial dreams, shares her frustrations from minor irritations to deepest grief, and exhibits a growing maturity in how she approaches her life. She is a girl on the brink of adulthood, intelligent and sincere and a little bit selfish, and not without her share of troubles and worry.

One of the things that makes Dazai's works so potent is the sense of authenticity with which his characters are imbued. They are likeable, imperfect, and completely believable as people. This is true of the titular schoolgirl as well. I found her to be charming and appreciated how honest she could be with herself. She's still in the process of growing up and finding herself. There were moments when I couldn't help but smile and think "Just wait until you're a little bit older, you'll understand better." She may be a fictional character, but I found myself wishing the best for her as if I actually knew her. Another thing that impresses me about the characters in Dazai's stories is that no matter how unlike me they are, I am still able to identify with them and care about them. I am in no way a late 1930s Japanese schoolgirl, but even though most aspects of our lives are different we still shared some similar thought processes and personal quirks. Dazai's writing can be surprisingly universal.

Although I haven't read any other translations of Schoolgirl in order to compare, I was quite happy with Powell's work on the novella. The accessible translation reads nicely, is almost poetic in places, and while I would exactly call it "bubbly," it is well suited as the voice of a precocious teenage girl. I did find myself interrupting my reading to look up references to pieces of literature mentioned with which I was unfamiliar, so it would have been nice if a few cultural notes would have been included as well. This additional information is not absolutely critical to the understanding and enjoyment of Schoolgirl although it does add some extra depth to the narrative. While Schoolgirl may not be as obviously tragic as some of Dazai's following works, echos of the story and the themes he deals with in it can be readily found later on. I am very glad that I finally had an opportunity to read one of Dazai's earliest successes. I'm also looking forward tremendously to seeing what other delights One Peace Books will be bringing readers as part of the Modern Japanese Classics series.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Dec 4, 2011 |
We have a vague notion of the best place we should go, or the beautiful places we should like to see, or the kinds of places that would make us grow as a person. We yearn for a good life. We have real hopes and ambitions. We feel impatient for an unshakable faith that we can rely on. But it would require considerable effort to express such things in our typical life as a girl. – from Schoolgirl, page 31 -

A young, Japanese girl wakes up fighting sadness, and missing her father who has died. She dresses, has breakfast and plucks some weeds from the garden before heading for school. As the day unfolds, she muses about life, arranged marriages, the struggles of growing up and being misunderstood; she wrestles with ambivalent feelings about her mother. She returns home from school and visits with her family and visitors, has dinner, bathes. It is all but an ordinary day in the life of a young schoolgirl. But it is less the actions of the protagonist and more her adolescent ruminations which draw the reader into Osamu Dazai’a slim novella.

This is a universal story about what it is like to grow from childhood into adulthood. The angst, moodiness, and introspection are all typical of adolescents who feel largely misunderstood.

Nobody in the world understood our suffering. In time, when we became adults, we might look back on this pain and loneliness as a funny thing, perfectly ordinary, but – but how were we expected to get by, to get through this interminable period of time until that point when we were adults? – from Schoolgirl, page 89 -

In Schoolgirl, the protagonist longs to grow up, but clings to childhood. She has the added burden of dealing with the death of her father, and her feelings toward her mother range from irritation to love.

I felt ashamed about the earlier resentment I had harbored towards Mother when Imaida had been here. I’m sorry, I formed the words softly. I only ever think of myself, I thought, I let myself be coddled by her to my heart’s content, and then take such a reckless attitude with her. – from Schoolgirl, page 83 -

Schoolgirl was the work which brought Dazai’s writing to the forefront of the literary world in post-war Japan. Within its pages can be found the cultural mores of this period in history, where girls in Japan were still finding themselves in arranged marriages. The young girl in the story worries about being forced into marriage to an older man who she does not love.

Across from me four or five salarymen who looked about the same age were just sitting there. They must have been around 30. I didn’t like any of them. Their eyes were empty and dull. They had no vigor. But now, if I so much as grinned at them, I could very well be dragged off by one of these men, falling into the chasm of compulsory marriage. – from Schoolgirl, page 35 -

Dazai’s style is like a long, narrative poem – observant, simple and oddly compelling. I read this book in less than two hours, but found it haunting me for several days. Dazai does not name his narrator, and so she becomes symbolic of all young girls growing up and trying to define their identities against their families and society at large. Despite an underlying sadness there is also a great deal of optimism in this novella. When the young girl drops off to sleep at the end the tone is decidedly hopeful.

Schoolgirl is a literary work which appears simple on the surface, but explores themes of identity, family and grief. Readers who enjoy literary fiction will find this an interesting read.

Recommended. ( )
1 vote writestuff | Nov 4, 2011 |
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