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La déchéance d'un homme by Osamu Dazai

La déchéance d'un homme (original 1948; edition 1990)

by Osamu Dazai

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5921616,592 (3.91)15
Title:La déchéance d'un homme
Authors:Osamu Dazai
Info:Gallimard (1990), Edition: GALLIMARD, Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Fiction, Your library, To read, Favorites

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No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (1948)


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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I’ll start this off with some content warnings. This book includes several suicide attempts (one successful), a main (POV) character who becomes an alcoholic and a drug addict and who is probably depressed, and several mentions of rape and child molestation. Most of these things aren’t described in much detail, but they’re there.

Almost all of this book is written as though it was the notebook of a man named Oba Yozo (I’m pretty sure that’s the original name order, with family name first, although I could be wrong). Yozo writes about his life from his early childhood days to what I’m assuming is near the end of his life. The book ends and begins with a chapter written from the perspective of someone who did not personally know Yozo but read his notebooks and met someone who did know him.

When Yozo was a very young child, he became convinced that he did not qualify as human. The thought that someone else might realize he wasn’t human so terrified him that he began to behave like a clown. If others were laughing at his antics and jokes, then they weren’t looking at him too closely. Unfortunately for him, he occasionally met individuals who seemed able to see beneath his clownish mask. Beginning in his college years, he was also taken aback by how attractive women seemed to find him.

Yozo seemed incapable of empathizing with others and could only view their words and actions in terms of how they directly related to him. This was especially driven home by the last few pages of the book, written from the perspective of a man who didn’t know Yozo. For the first time since the book began, a POV character was writing about people who weren’t Yozo as though they had thoughts and feelings of their own, and about the wider world and what was going on in it. It was like a breath of fresh air and really emphasized how isolated Yozo had been, even though he spoke to and interacted with more people in his portion of the book than the man at the end.

The beginning of the book worked best for me. Yozo was essentially trapped by his fears, worried about how others perceived him and what they might have been able to see in him. Because he couldn’t understand the thoughts and behaviors of those around him, he doubted the correctness of his own opinions and feelings - after all, if everyone else was human and he was not, who was he to contradict what others said or did? This was especially tragic when it led to him not telling anyone that one of the servants (or several) had molested him. Or at least I think that’s what happened - the author/translator was very vague, saying that he had been “corrupted” and that “to perpetrate such a thing on a small child is the ugliest, vilest, cruelest crime a human being can commit” (35).

Things started to fall apart during Yozo’s college years. Yozo’s father wanted him to become a civil servant, while Yozo wanted to study art. This devolved into Yozo skipping classes, drinking, hiring prostitutes, hanging out with Marxists, and occasionally working on his art. My patience with Yozo pretty much ran out, and it didn’t help that the book developed a very clear misogynistic thread. An example of one of this section's more off-putting quotes: at one point, Yozo said “I never could think of prostitutes as human or even as women” (63). Women, in particular, seemed drawn to his self-destructive orbit, and the result was misery for everyone involved.

Yozo continued his habit of believing others’ assessment of him. Sometimes this had a positive effect on Yozo, such as his brief period of contentment with his wife, a girl (really a girl - she was only 17 when he married her) who genuinely believed that he was a good person and that he would never lie to her. However, since Yozo seemed to gravitate towards people who looked down on him, his habit of accepting and believing whatever people said about him usually drew him further into his downward spiral. I’d say it was depressing, except Yozo was generally so detached from everything that the word seems too strong to be appropriate.

There’s a manga adaptation of this that I might read, just to get a different interpretation of the story. That said, I suspect the manga won’t work for me much more than this did. No Longer Human was well-written, but not my sort of book at all.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jun 10, 2017 |
No Longer Human captured my attention in a way that The Setting Sun didn't quite manage to.

Considering that this is a mildly autobiographical interpretation of the author himself, I'm cautious in how willing I am to call Oba Yozo out for his inclinations and behaviors, and am far more curious to try and understand where he is coming from.

If I came away with nothing else, it's that there are a limitless number of ways in which a person can be pathetic, there are several instances where characters who are not Oba Yozo disqualify themselves from a standard that would classify them as a decent human being, and that no one is exempt from the concept of feeling or appearing no longer human.

Also noteworthy is Oba Yozo's decline at the hands of drugs and alcohol. There came a certain point in the story where I began to noting several noteworthy similarities between Osamu Dazai's story, another titled Junky, by the American author, William S. Burroughs. ( )
  christina.h | Mar 12, 2017 |
這本書收錄太宰治的〈人間失格〉以及〈​Good bye〉兩則短篇小說,〈Good bye〉一文未完,事實上也尚未進入故事的核心,因此讀了並沒有太多的感覺。但〈人間失格〉一文卻給我很大的衝擊​。作者用第一人稱,平淡的語調,展開敘述,並不時自我詰問。主角天生的敏銳使他觀察到人世間種種的虛偽,對​人世間的規則感到無所適從,因此產生莫大的痛苦,進而扭曲自我,乃至最後失落沈溺於感官發洩而無法自拔。敏​銳的感覺和墮落的行為綜合在主角的身上,世人眼中的無賴卻是這個世界中善良無助的人,正常的世間反倒成為充​滿醜惡、卑鄙,可怕的存在。這樣對世間醜惡的赤裸指控、主角善良與罪惡同為一體的張力令人震撼、驚惶,卻又​暗自認同。我對太宰治,乃至日本文學是毫不熟悉的。但這則短篇小說卻引起我心深深震撼、共鳴,乃至無法一次​ ( )
  windhongtw | Apr 1, 2015 |
One of the few novels I would call perfect, alongside A Clockwork Orange and such. It really should be better known outside of Japan.
  OtherStoriesBooks | Dec 29, 2013 |
This is a remarkable book. Loneliness and suicide, but with a new look. Sparse and moving words. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Osamu Dazaiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Keene, DonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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