Week 2: 人間失格

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Week 2


Start Date: July 10th
Previous Part: Week 1
Next Part: Week 3


Week Start Date Chapter / End Phrase End Page Kindle LOC Kindle % Page Count
Week 2 July 10th 第一の手記 End 25 252 15% 9

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I’m continuing with my summaries. All quotes/info are from The Saga of Dazai Osamu by Phyllis I. Lyons, chapters Introduction, The Journey Outward and Childhood and Adolescence this time.


Dazai's family

Dazai’s real family was quite similar to the one from the book. He was a son of a politically active, wealthy landowner and he lived in a nice big house with numerous servants. They were of social importance in the neighborhood, although it’s important to remember it also was a rural area, so Dazai was a rich boy where he was born, but a country boy in Tokyo. The wealth wasn’t old, it’s was built within three generations.
Phyllis I. Lyons doesn’t think this family was especially evil, through, just incapable to help Dazai:

His writings show that his emotional needs were greater than the ability of the family, and his parents and brother in particular, to provide.

Family and school magazines

In Dazai’s youth, he was involved in various small-scope magazines, published either by his school (for example Aomori High School Magazine) or by his family (for example Aonbo – edited by Keiji, Dazai’s next older brother). I wonder if nowadays we would call them fanzines :thinking:

But the family games came to an end gradually, as responsibilities began to fall on the older brothers.

And meanwhile Dazai didn’t stop creating.

Death and abandonment

I guess death rate was much higher in older days, but even so, it’s seems quite grim in Dazai’s case:

“So many of my relative have died,” Dazai was to write almost a decade later. “My eldest sister died at twenty-six. Father died at fifty-three. Youngest brother at sixtreen. Third brother at twenty-seven. This year my next older sister died, thirty-four. A nephew, twenty-five, a younger cousin, twenty-one. They were both close to me, but they died anyway, one right after the other this year.”

To make matters worse, two important figures from his childhood, an aunt and a maid, eventually left his life to continue with their own, when he still probably needed them for emotional support.

Zū-zū ben

I mentioned before here that the area where Dazai was raised has a specific dialect, here’s a “joke” about it:

Tradition has it that the inhabitants of this culturally and economically backward Tōhoku region are naturally taciturn. It is widely repeated in Japan that the peculiar Tōhoku accent known familiarly as zū-zū ben (because the su sound of standard Japanese emerges as zu) results from climatic conditions: it is very cold up there, and people have to keep their mouths fairly well closed to conserve heat.

More about fiction vs reality

After reading the passage below, I decided that nobody really knows where are the discrepancies between fiction and reality in Dazai’s fiction. Really, everyone just relied on Dazai’s writing before Sōma Shōichi came and read some school reports? :woman_shrugging:t2:
When I first read some materials about Dazai I honestly believed it was more sophisticated.

Close investigation of Dazai’s childhood and youth, as well as his family history, relies to a great extent to this [Wakaki hi no Dazai Osamu] and other works of Sōma Shōichi, a writer from Dazai’s native prefecture of Aomori. It is a peculiarity of Dazai criticism that it required an Aomori critic to deal with the primary materials (school record, family registers, etc.) of Dazai’s early life. Most Tokyo critics, for nearly twenty years after Dazai’s death, touched on this life only in the most general and stereotyped ways, drawing from Dazai’s works for their evidence; since then, they have tended to rely on Souma’s work for Aomori material.


So, I’m talking about the unfortunate “rape scene” which was started to be discussed prematurely last week. I was wondering if this was fiction or biographical. As I concluded earlier, nobody really knows, but the matter is mentioned in the other Dazai’s story, too - Omoide. Unfortunately, it’s 作業中の作品 on Aozora, below is the Lyons’ translation (this week spoilers + Omoide spoilers obviously):

Once I entered school, I was no longer a child. The weeds grew thick around an abandoned house behind ours. One beautiful summer day, on that grassy plot, my younger brother’s nursemaid taught me something that made me gasp for breath. I was about eight, and I suppose that at the time she could not have been more than fourteen or fifteen. In my part of the country we call clover bogusa. She sent off my brother, who was three years younger than I, telling him to “go look for four-leaf bogusa,”, and then she grabbed me in her arms and rolled around with me. From then on we would hide, in the storehouse or in a closet, and play. My little brother was a terrible obstacle. Once we were even found out by my next older brother. My little brother had been left alone outside the closet, and he stood there crying. He told on us to my next older brother, who opened the closet door. The nursemaid told him blandly, “We dropped some money in the closet.”

As for this week’s reading itself, I really liked the scene at the end with servants lying about their impressions about 演説. I guess I never get this part of social niceties and I’m always happy when somebody rants about it :sweat_smile:

Meanwhile -

I want to make sure if you know where the “rape scene” was by now, or do you want me to pinpoint you a quote when we’re finally on the correct week? :sweat_smile: It’s not that big, it’s totally possible to miss it.


Thx for the info as always. Really apreciated.

I still have no idea bit I might reread some part of this week reading to be sure. This book is harder than my usual reading so… I might use the fact that we have less pages per week than expected to look more into understanding.
Thx for the help


Well, in case of more confusion, just @ me!


I don’t have a lot to say about the end of the chapter but I’m having fun following along the French translation to spot the mistakes (and occasionally find parts where I’m the one who misunderstood but shh). In that regard, this week was not as bad as week 1, but I was intrigued by the translation of the very last sentences: (translated to English by me) “And, since had never denounced anyone, it is in isolation, and thanks to my feminine side, that I guessed many things and that is why I was taken advantage of in many ways in the years that followed. Because of this feminine side, I stayed a man who was ignorant of the secrets of love.” It’s a mystery to me how why he turned the 女性 into a feminine side.

At some point he also clearly misread クスクス笑い as クラス笑い, since he translated it as “the class was laughing”.


The first sentence has a few place names that are confusing, maybe not worth trying to decipher as much as i did :sweat_smile:
So his father had a villa/house… somewhere.
上野 is Ueno, a district of Tokyo. I thought it might mean the historical Kouzuke Province, written the same, but that was merged into Gunma prefecture in 1876 (not close either).
桜木町 is Sakuragichou, a place in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
So… how can you have a house in Ueno’s Sakuragichou?

Maybe the translator (Keene) was confused as well, or he just wanted to eliminate references to Japan, because he just wrote “My father frequently had business in Tokyo and maintained a town house for that reason.”
This is probably pretty irrelevant, but i’m still curious :smiley:


It looks like there’s a 上野桜木 neighborhood in Tokyo that’s read うえのさくらぎ. Maybe he meant that, and the の stopped being written out over time?


that makes a lot of sense, considering the business in Tokyo! Thanks!
(i could have figured out it’s one word, but i didn’t expect 上野 not to just be Ueno, and there’s also a 桜木町駅 (Sakuragichou train station), apparently old and famous)


This isn’t that relevant, but I like this neighborhood map of the surrounding district, and it makes it clear what (little) difference there is between 上野桜木 and 上野:

I feel like there doesn’t need to be so many 上野s


Ooh, so that’s Taitō Ward (区) with its districts. I didn’t know of this division of Tokyo into “special wards (区)” with their (sub-)districts (usually without suffix), now the terminology is a lot clearer to me. Thanks!
Also interesting that these wards call themselves city in English.


To add to the place name buffet, there’s also all the non-区 divisions, which tend to use 市 as the suffix!
Those are probably (?) (even) less relevant to No Longer Human though, since I think the 区 areas are the core of historical Tokyo (/Edo). (and I suppose they still mainly are)

Tokyo… has a lot of place names.


Definitely nice to know for completion!
That’s basically the countryside though, the largest of these “cities” has only around half a million inhabitants :wink:


Reading tip: The protagonist’s name 葉蔵 is read ようぞう (spoilers maybe).
(first occurence early in this week’s part, i believe)


It was mentioned so casually I had to take a second look and check the definition for 犯す, although I really knew it.

Sadly I wasn’t wrong. :frowning_face:
And by casually, I mean stylistically and tonally no different to the rest of the writing. I suppose that makes sense, since our protag experiences life as difficult and painful and scary anyway, so this may would have felt like more of the same.

I actually re-read last week’s part before moving on to this one, and I have to say, it’s a pretty different experience! Having read it before, the run on sentences and, ah, train-of-thought-ness takes much less brain power. I don’t think the meaning I got from it changed, but the second read through felt much clearer. Time and will permitting I’ll try to do so for the other weeks as well. :sparkles:

(I remember thinking something similar about 雪国, and I didn’t really do it then. Next week will tell.:upside_down_face:)


There’s a later reference in the book as 上野桜木町, so that makes sense.

Interesting, I seem to have lot more furigana in my version. Or just in different places :stuck_out_tongue:.

Finished this weeks reading. I kind of forgot to study my wordlist-anki deck and realized suddenly I just read way past my deck. Not sure I got everything, since I just read through without looking anything up; but I guess enough. Let’s see if I have the time and energy to reread stuff.

I chuckled at 嗚呼, haven’t seen that one in kanji before. First time also seeing 上京 in a book, I remember studying that years ago and thought if that’s ever going to be useful :man_shrugging:.


That’s why I said it’s totally possible to miss it. :woman_shrugging:t2: And I really like how it blends in with the rest and I agree with your interpretation about protag experiencing life as difficult and painful and scary anyway. :+1:t2:

In Junji Ito’s manga adaptation, the matter is much more fleshed out. From one of the reviews:

Now Junji Ito has given us his own manga adaptation of the story. Maybe adaptation is the wrong word, since it doesn’t convey how radically Ito has reworked Dazai to fit his own vision. I am not talking about the way Ito uses his visual style, which is excellent throughout, and appropriately unnerving: we see everything through Yozo’s haunted eyes, just as we did in the original story. And most, if not all, of the original story is in fact there. It’s that Ito has added about a hundred percent more of his own atop and within it, in much the same way a stretch limo has the same front and back of the original car but absurdly more in the middle.
Some of this is just spelling out what Dazai only chose to hint at. The sexual assaults that shaped Yozo’s young life are shown graphically — he’s both violated by a male house servant and seduced by one of the maids […]
source: Junji Ito's 'No Longer Human': No Longer Dazai / Ganriki but there are spoilers there for the whole book


I chuckled even more when I looked it up and came across this one:

I am happy that I have two translations, because I had some trouble with this bit:


And I didn’t think the Gibeau translation was very helpful here:

Even had I appealed to Father, to Mother, to a policeman, to the government—wouldn’t those people, adept as they were at getting their own way, just make up some story or other and that would be the end of the matter?

Keene on the other hand translates it as follows:

Supposing I complained to my father or my mother, or to the police, the government—I wondered if in the end I would not be argued into silence by someone in good graces with the world, by the excuses of which the world approved.


I’m with Keene on that one :wink:

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I feel like Gibeau’s translation suggests something completely different than what is meant…? To me it seems to suggest that the powers that be would concoct a cover-up, whereas in Keene’s translation you get the sense that they would argue him out of ‘making a fuss’.

Yes, I read the two translations the same.

But now that I look at it again, I wonder whether maybe Gibeau is right and Keene is not :roll_eyes:

I mean, it all boils down to the meaning of まくられる, I guess? Just looking at the word, I thought it had something to do with curtains or cover or the like, and therefore I thought that Keene was right. But Jisho claims that 言いまくる - Jisho.org means “to talk volubly” (also Goo says that it means “to rattle on”) and so all of a sudden I think it’s not about the protagonist being talked down by them but rather they just talk and talk (to cover up the events) - which now makes Gibeau look much closer to the original than Keene :rofl:

Maybe we can find a neutral third party to help us out of this rut? :innocent:

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