Week 1: 人間失格

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人間失格 Home Thread

Week 1


Start Date: July 3rd
Next Part: Week 2


Week Start Date Chapter / End Phrase End Page Kindle LOC Kindle % Page Count
Week 1 July 3rd はしがき + 第一の手記: 姉の脚絆(レギンス)を両腕にはめて、浴衣の袖口から覗かせ、(もっ)てセエターを着ているように見せかけていたのです。 16 145 10% 12

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I’ve read this week’s part because I had time this morning.

Thoughts on the はしがき:

I roughly know what the story is about and it feels like the author is describing how he felt when he was looking at photos of himself. In particular it’s noteworthy how he describes someone who tries to fit in, but can’t – in other words, someone who’s trying to put on an act to mimic what society expects of him, though is unable to fully do so.

It sounds an aweful lot like Dazai is, to some extend, autistic, though I’m no expert on the matter. There’s a book reexamining Dazai’s writing by taking potential ADHD and asperger’s into consideration.

Also this part from chapter 1:

Some else pointed to Psychotic Depression.

Another person in the Amazon reviews mentions borderline personality disorder (境界性人格障害).

Unrelated, but it’s a bit annoying that you can’t properly search for Dazai anymore without getting 80% articles about Bungō Stray Dogs.


Whoa, so the enlightened people who’ve studied 美醜 can tell truly ugly from truly beautiful people? What a useful skill to have! [/irony]

感ぜられて – I simply cannot get used to this spelling, even though it was used constantly in 風立ちぬ.

Thoughts on chapter 1:


I can relate a little but in that I never felt sleepy as a child (maybe as a very young child) and always had to go to sleep without really feeling like sleeping. I still remember a time when I was 9 or so and really thought that I’d felt sleepy for the first time in my life (or a very long time at least). This doesn’t happen anymore, though.

三度々々 – Interesting to see a double 々. (sandosando is the reading)

サーヴィス – A proper ヴィ! Rare today!
ナアヴァスネス – They sure had different katakana spelling back then.

And yup, this is a slow and depressing story already. I didn’t find it very difficult to read overall so far. Shorter sentences than 風立ちぬ, no long-winded descriptions of the scenery and the language / kanji usage is not quite as dated. I think I’ll enjoy this as a weekly read.

And if anyone wondered about the “下男、下女に犯される” part in chapter 1 – I really wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be literal or not –, this may help.


I agree and I like BSD, and I found about BSD while searching about the real authors, so it was useful for me that it popped out, but… I agree it’s too invasive :sweat_smile:

I mentioned in the Home Thread that I want to do something alongside the book club, but not rereading 人間失格 in Japanese itself. So I’ll be reading The Saga of Dazai Osamu : A Critical Study with Translations by Phyllis I. Lyons and sharing the most interesting trivia each week. So here we go! This week it’s Preface + Introduction.

Comparing Dazai to Elvis Presley (please remember that the book was published in 1985)

To the Japanese, Dazai Osamu is not just one of the most famous of all modern writers; he is a star. […] Critical studies of his work abound in the literary journals, and even popular magazines regularly publish articles on his life with much the same tone as the latest revelations about Elvis Presley […]. […] most leading literary critics and even writers have at least one essay on his work. […] In 1968 […] a survey conducted by […] the Asashi Shimbun showed that students at four major universities placed Dazai’s novel No Longer Human ninth on the list of books that had most influenced them […].

On Dazai’s language (it relates to all his works, I don't know how much of this is visible in 人間失格 in particular)

While Dazai’s language is accessible and evocative, it is also idiosyncratic and sometimes oblique.

[…] his sentences are long and meandering, […] he repeats words and phrases from one sentence to another, […] his paragraphs run on for a page or more […].

[…] one of Dazai’s frequently used stylistic devices: a mode of discourse between direct and indirect, that is, direct quoted statement without quotation marks. Since there is, in these spots, less of an author’s presence standing, like a stage manager’s, between reader and text-event, the effect in the Japanese is to make the text more permeable to the reader.

Another characteristic of Dazai’s writing style: the shift of pronoun referent within a single paragraph. […] Dazai uses this option freely, to produce rapid shifts in person that mirror the rapid flow of thoughts in narrator’s mind.

Fiction or biographical?

Some critics have taken his stories as gospel truth, some have devoted lifetimes to identifying breaches in the factual record where elements of fiction have leaked in, and yet others have studied Dazai’s life as it were the story.

I admit I have a soft spot for the last approach.

Dazai’s literary references

Dazai was a child of the modern world […]; his vocabulary of writers was eclectic. A large number of Western names appear in his stories: Ibsen Strindberg, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. They float through, often without explanation or with only allusive reference, as if on the assumption that the audience too will be familiar with them. What is noteworthy about this list it is totally conventional; any reasonably educated reader would know the names. Like the writing of one of his favorite writers, Akutagawa, Dazai’s early writing fairly bristles with ample sprinklings of the names of these writers. Yet it is difficult to say how much Dazai knew about them of their work. In other words, it is more useful here to speak of their “stimulus” than of their “influence”. Dazai himself never seriously discussed any of them in his writing, nor does he ever give the impression that he grappled at any serious level with them. When he uses the Bible, his references are only the most obvious kind, such as any high school graduate would have known by the 1930s […].

Literary circles (文壇)

The literary world was and is dominated by a fictive entity called the bundan […], a self-contained institution that produces, supports and controls both writers and their publishing opportunities, and even makes moral judgments about its “members”. Writers tended to belong to literary schools, or at least be classified by association. All such schools, even those in conflict with each other, were parts of the larger whole. A new voice had essentially to be sponsored by one of the established writers, even if the sponsorship was only formal; opposition by a major figure could end even a relatively well-known writer’s carrier, as happened when Kawabata turned against Ryūtanji Yū in the 1930’s and “buried” him for having attacked the cliquishness of the bundan. There were several sponsor figures in Dazai’s career, including Ibuse Masuji and Satou Haruo, with whom Dazai had continuing though troubled relationships; but the sometimes censorious judgments of major powers like Kawabata and Shiga (whom Dazai called both seriously and ironically routaika […]) caused him more than passing difficulties, personally and in the literary world. Dazai never belonged more than briefly to any literary school; for a man who sought to find connections, both concrete and abstract, during his lifetime, and who collected an audience of devoted supporters, readers, and publishers, he remained a lone wolf professionally. Some of his closest friends were writers, but his relations with the bundan were distant.

About his other works

I mention baaack in the ABC thread around the time 人間失格 was nominated that I prefer Dazai’s short works to 人間失格. And now I feel validated :stuck_out_tongue:

Dazai’s most distinctive writing – the writing in which he is at his most Dazaiesque – has a special strength, in that Dazai seems to speak the reader’s own thoughts for him. Its weakness is that some readers may have grown tired of those thoughts, or may be unwilling to see some of the strange situations in Dazai’s stories as extreme cases of common agonies. Therefore, Dazai’s Japanese readership exhibits an interesting characteristic: it is constantly augmented by new crops of sixteen-years-olds who are struggling for the first time with some of the problems of self-definition that Dazai writes about; but it tends to lose numbers of twenty-three-year-olds who believe they are finished with that business, who have either made their peace and solved their problem,s or have given up thinking about irresolubles. Such a large number, however, continue to be faithful readers that since his death at least three editions of his collected works have been published […]. And for these readers, the favorite works tend to be not the most publicity famous ones, but the autobiographical stories that are the focus of this study.


I feel a little nervous praising Dazai for his sense of humor after 人間失格 puts such a big emphasis on how protagonist’s humor was just a mask to hide his suffering, but… but it’s a fact that in above-mentioned short stories my most favorites are these most humorous. Humor won’t be that visible in 人間失格, but I wanted to at least mention that part of Dazai’s style.

[…]and he does this often enough with a redeeming touch of humor – ironic, sad, bemused, and sharp, but humor nonetheless.

Some works, like Fugaku hyakkei […] and Otogizoushi […] are openly humorous and, in scenes, even comic.

Digression about Kawabata

Slightly offtopic, but this book also brought to my attention that Kawabata (the guy who wrote 雪国, previous ABC pick) also is suspected of committing suicide. I don’t remember it being mentioned anywhere is his threads, although I admit I only skimmed them as I wasn’t reading the book itself, I was only looking for people’s impressions about the book. Anyway, this one quote is, for a change, from Kawabata’s English Wikipedia page:

Kawabata apparently committed suicide in 1972 by gassing himself, but a number of close associates and friends, including his widow, consider his death to have been accidental. One thesis, as advanced by Donald Richie, was that he mistakenly unplugged the gas tap while preparing a bath. Many theories have been advanced as to his potential reasons for killing himself, among them poor health (the discovery that he had Parkinson’s disease), a possible illicit love affair, or the shock caused by the suicide of his friend Yukio Mishima in 1970. Unlike Mishima, Kawabata left no note, and since (again unlike Mishima) he had not discussed significantly in his writings the topic of taking his own life, his motives remain unclear. However, his Japanese biographer, Takeo Okuno, has related how he had nightmares about Mishima for two or three hundred nights in a row, and was incessantly haunted by the specter of Mishima. In a persistently depressed state of mind, he would tell friends during his last years that sometimes, when on a journey, he hoped his plane would crash.


Wow, that’s great, I’m looking forward to reading your background information! I was just wondering, would your summaries spoil anything of the real story (of this week or of subsequent weeks) if I read your post before the week’s assignment?


Planning on reading this later on, but I’ll still follow along. The book’s available on Bookwalker for around 150円 so I’ll buy that.


Nope! I even plan to quickly skim the relevant sections in Polish to check where you are in the plot to not spoil anything and maybe choose trivia more relevant to each week’s reading, if possible.
If I blur anything, it will be with usual rules, so only things from that week’s, nothing further.


Thank you so much! I really appreciate your support :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


So, I wasn’t sure if my level was good enough to read this book but it was easier than expected. This first week was harder than usual but still fun. Lots of old ways of writing with long sentences. A few expressions here and there and lots of inside dialogues. It was most tiresome than usual but I liked the book. I’m sure I missed lots of small nuances but nothing I can do about it.

This was a depressing beginning.


For me, it felt more like an outsider found the pictures.

Maybe but I found that he just can’t integrated in society. Altought he does not feel hunger or anything at all but since he does not consider himself human he always speak as if he is outside of the human race.

Chapter 1

I thought the same thing.

Not sure if I got it. I just thought he considered human crude, lowly creatures which is why he used that. I might have missed something though.

Dazai being forced to be a clown to make connections was sad. I heard about it but never thought about it too much. It kind of hit home. I feel I will like this book but it probably going to feel city.


I wanted to know a bit more about the とでも言おうか grammar point and came across this HiNative thread which asks about the exact sentence from the book (and about some more words that appear in this week’s reading). I found it quite interesting and thought I’d share it here.

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Aaah, I missed it! Yes, @icefang97 is right, an outsider found the pictures, it’s a story within a story.

[EDITED, it had spoilers for the Week 2, because @KazeTachinu read too far]

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Answer to Aislin

Wait… dit I missed the rape scene? Sorry I’m not following

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Okaaay I had to investigate a bit, but I now know what happened. @KazeTachinu read too far, to the end of the chapter 1. So it’s Week 2 sentence. Sorry for the confusion :worried:

I’m angry at myself, because I even checked it, because it felt too early, but in Japanese version because I wanted to use the search function, and there are 下男&下女 in different sentence too, and I got deceived.


Oops, sorry, didn’t even realize we weren’t supposed to read the full first chapter yet!

Will reply to the rest later.


I also thought 三度々々 was interesting and I misread it as「さんどたびたび」(as mentioned it’s actually read「さんどさんど」). And I think I’d never seen the spelling 仕合わせ.

Indeed there are a lot of long winded sentences. I think you can get the gist fairly easily but some parts can be confusing. In particular, I’m not sure what was meant here: 「エゴイストになりきって、しかもそれを当然の事と確信し、いちども自分を疑った事が無いんじゃないか? それなら、楽だ、しかし、人間というものは、皆そんなもので、またそれで満点なのではないかしら」

“They become complete egoists, and are convinced it’s natural, and never doubted themselves once” (?) Is that referring to people assuming that they are suffering and that he is happy, and that is somehow selfish?
“If that’s the case, it makes things easy for them, however, humans are all like that(?), and maybe that’s right(?)” Wasn’t sure about this usage of 満点.


My interpretation is that this is refering to himself. He ponders that if he were to become an egoist (like everyone else), it would alleviate the pain he described in the preceding sentence. I don’t really get what he means by “egoist” in this case, though, because what the others do doesn’t strike me as particularly egostic. But I also think he is kind of rambling to himself, so I don’t expect to be able to completely follow his trail of thought throughout the entire book.

I think by 満点 he means “the way it is expected” (as in something that’s considered right, i.e. would score “full points”), as in the second definition.

And yup, 仕合わせ also surprised me.


oh lol, I thought it was sandododo since the meaning is “three times”, so I thought it’d make sense if it was triple ど too :joy:


Mhh so I checked the english translation (there’s one on archive dot org, I assume it’s legal? edit: probably not so I removed the link)

“Am I wrong in thinking that these people have become such complete egoists and are so convinced of the normality of their way of life that they have never once
doubted themselves? if that is the case, their sufferings should he easy to hear: they are the common lot of human beings and perhaps the best one can hope for.”

The first sentence seems to match my understanding, although it still doesn’t really explain what Dazai is talking about. The second sentence I can sort of vaguely see where it’s coming from, but I would have been hard pressed to come up with that translation. And it seems that “満点” was translated as “the best one can hope for”.


Judging by the copyright, probably not :stuck_out_tongue:. And it’s by Donald Keene, as well.


Well, oops. (edit: I’ve removed the link from my earlier post)


We weren’t??? Oups were we supposed to stop at the sentence written after 第一の手記 in the op??? I read it all. It was only 20 pages or so, so… I will look more carefully next time but I kinda like ending on a new chapter.