Week 3: 人間失格

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人間失格 Home Thread

Week 3


Start Date: July 17th
Previous Part: Week 2
Next Part: Week 4


Week Start Date Chapter / End Phrase End Page Kindle LOC Kindle % Page Count
Week 3 July 17th 第二の手記: 校歌などというものも、いちども覚えようとした事がありません。 43 453 27% 18

Discussion Rules

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Dazai Trivia Week 3.
All info & quotes come from The Saga of Dazai Osamu by Phyllis I. Lyons, chapters Childhood and Adolescence and The Journey Inward. Pictures are from 100 Year Anniversary of the Birth of DAZAI Osamu: DAZAI Osamu and Art-His Homeland and Self-Portraits | 青森県立美術館 .

More pictures!

This week, the protag gets into painting. It may seem like a replacement for Dazai’s writer’s career, but it’s not 100% true, because even if Dazai main artistic activity was writing, he was painting/drawing too.

@icefang97 Bungou Stray Dogs snippet - first two paintings made it into the manga, actually: https://ichiyo-higuchi.tumblr.com/post/147588139294/fun-dazai-trivia

More family


Dazai had little opportunity to be close to his mother Tane because of her weak health and because she was away in Tokyo for long periods once his father was elected to the national legislature. She was gentle and retiring woman, worn down, by the time Dazai came along, by the effort of bearing and raising nine children. She was easily intimidated, and her own mother Ishi often called her incompetent. Already she was showing signs of the lung complications, most probably tuberculosis, that plagued the whole family. She was thirty-six when Dazai was born, and lived to age of seventy, but she spent a good portion of the intervening years convalescing at – or retreating to – hot springs.


Dazai writes that the one he feared most in the family was his father

he emphasizes how little he knew of his father, and how intimidating he was

ominous image of his father, a dark figure standing backlighted in the doorway of the storehouse, and scolding Dazai and his little brother who were playing there

powerful male figure unapproachable and capricious

Significantly, Dazai’s characterizations of his father largely leave out the traits he seems most to have shared with him: Gen’emon is remembered as expansive, fond of drinking and entertaining, a jokester who liked to make people laugh, extravagant, stubborn, resistant to authority, imaginative, and vain.

Among the arrangements that had had to be made after Gen’emon’s death […] had been the disposition of several mistresses.


I mentioned in the previous week that Dazai was close to his aunt (but unfortunately she wasn’t able to care for him as long as he needed) - this week I read that he even believed he was really his aunt’s child and he is mentioning it even in Return to Tsugaru he wrote 4 years before his death. Everyone was convincing him he was legitimate child of his mother, but he didn’t seem convinced. In this scenario, his father would still be his biological father:

During his college days Dazai wrote a story, “Mugen naraku”, dealing with the problem of morally poisoned bloodlines. In it he described the father of the hero as being more attracted to his lively sister-in-law who bore her widowhood well than to his wife who did nothing but tie in bed weeping after the birth of her child.


Dazai’s description of his brothers changes within the years depending of his mood and personal situation:

“Recollections” is filled with memories of shame and neglect, and even momentary echoes of terror, and that his memories of his brothers are so conflictful, as full of estrangement as reconciliation. […]

“My Older Brothers” has a gently nostalgic, elegiac tone. Its theme is the pitiableness of brothers fated to be abandoned through their father’s death. The author recalls now that his brothers all indulged him and forgave him any insolence. He recognizes […] struggles his brothers must have gone through to preserve their father political and economic legacy.

Dazai's grades

Despite all joking around, Dazais grades were very good, even for “deportment”, at least for a time:

Fortunately, the problem reaches a temporary solution when the first semester grades come out and he is third in the class, with an A in the deportment. He is ecstatic.

and dislike for motivating songs

Dazai funds the efforts of the militarists during the war to promote interest in the patriotic songs as disgusting as the cheerleader’s attempt to get up school spirit; and he ascribes the lack of popularity of these songs to a similar feeling on the part of the populace: “it seems that people were too embarrassed to sing [them].


Just a few pages into this week’s reading… Based on his comments about women, I’m guessing Dazai is more popular with male readers? :sweat_smile:

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I’m enjoying how Dazai begins his chapters. They always seem to hook me. This time it’s with a long meandering, but beautiful description of the beach near his middle school:


My rough translation: Close to the water’s edge there were more than twenty quite large black barked mountain cherry trees standing in a row. When the new school year starts the mountain cherry trees, with their dark brown sticky looking new leaves, blossom brilliantly with the blue ocean in the background. And before long the wind blows the petals and they fall in great numbers into the ocean floating like precious stones inlayed into jewelry on the surface of the water. Riding on the waves they are beaten back to the shore once again. That cherry blossom beach was used as a campus by a middle school in the Tohoku region. I didn’t really study for the entrance exams, but I managed to get in. On the buttons of that school’s uniforms and on the insignia on its hats was the image of a cherry blossom.


Nice translation! I concur.

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This is probably the hardest book I ever read in Japanese(for now)

It’s so cool. I love references like these. Thx for the info as always. I really like all the details about him writing characters. His paintings are great.

This week stuff

So, I was sure I got the first chapter stuff correct but there are lots of comments from last week that talk about stuff I had no memories of so this week I did extra attention to understand.

1-The MC just got an ear cleaning while thinking of love. I’m not sure what he meant when he was talking about a girl being terribly wounded inside. P33 「そして時たま、虎に尾を踏む失敗をして。。。」I don’t get what he did wrong.

2-Just to be sure he stayed at his friends’ house and his friends’ sister always coming to play with him? Or was it his house?

The painting thing surprised me as the MC looks like Dazai and he didn’t seem to be doing painting.(Thx to Aislin for correcting my assumption.)
The MC just became a Yanki. skipping school.
Edit: Is the ghost painting any relation to real life Dazai?
I saw the 「吾輩は猫である」 book reference. Never read it though.


Yes, both protag and the real Dazai stayed at the relatives during the later school years.

I’m basing my answer on the Polish translation - it’s about girls wounding protag (emotionally) not the other way around, and about women being better at wounding protag than men.


So, in the original discussion about the pace for this book, I said that the language didn’t seem that difficult. I take that back :sweat_smile: Dude needs to learn that periods are a thing.

I agree, that description of the cherry tree beach is beautiful! But weirdly, the “自分は受験勉強もろくにしなかったのに、どうやら無事に入学できました” part is completely missing from Keen’s translation.

Of course the French version has lots more translation errors. I know it’s easy to criticize a 60 year old translation, buuuut it’s fun and the translator’s been dead for over 50 years so he won’t mind. The thing I find very weird is that he gets some pretty complex parts right, but sometimes makes really basic mistakes. Like translating 「自分には、人間の女性のほうが、男性よりもさらに数倍難解でした。」as “The male nature was much more difficult for me to understand than the female nature”. It’s the opposite. Seriously, より~のほうが is N5 grammar.

I’m not gonna list them all but another example is 「自分は、あの雷の如き蛮声を張り上げる配属将校をさえ(…)」It seems pretty obvious that あの雷の如き蛮声を張り上げる modifies 配属将校, but he translated it as “When I unleashed a savage, thunderous roar, the school officer…”

Oh and last week he didn’t know that お巡りさん means police officer and translated it as “people around me”.

A bit less obvious but he missed that 大庭 is the protagonist’s last name (I have to say I wasn’t sure and had to check the internet). So he translated このクラスは大庭さえいないと as “when the students are not in the courtyard”.

I could go on. I’m a bit sad and ashamed that this is the only French translation available and that it’s so poor quality :confused:


By the way, at the time we said that we would start slow then pick up the pace. You might have noticed that this week’s assignment was about double last week’s. But the idea was that we could readjust the schedule based on actual difficulty if needed. So if anyone feels like we should change the pace, now would be a good time to say so.


I asked a Japanese friend about my translation and they noted how it lacks the same nuance as the Japanese. Maybe because they had read the whole book in school and critically examined it to some extent they had more context for this passage, but in addition perhaps as a non native Japanese reader, I am not as able to pick up on the nuances that my friend described as a sense of irritation or obstruction that Dazai feels towards that place. This is a good reminder that reading in general is not only just understanding the words on the page, but also reading between the lines and putting things in context. Of course this becomes increasingly difficult when reading in a foreign language. I can already tell that I would like to return to this book again in a few years, when hopefully I have improved my Japanese reading ability.


Double??? Okay… In my opinion, which is obviously the best, we should continue with our current pace as the difficultly is harder than usual. Even reading Re Zero feels easy after reading some Dazai. I feel exausthed after reading it ha ha


In case it wasn’t clear, when I said “this week” I meant week 3, the one that just finished. So if you made it through, you already read double the assignment from week 2. You can double check the current schedule on the home thread.

Basically, week 1 and 2 were 9-12 pages, weeks 3-9 are 17-22 pages, averaging 18.5 (so not quite double, although page counts are a bit approximate since we don’t start/end on page breaks).

If we added an extra week and shifted all the breaks right now (so including shortening week 4 which starts today), we would bring the average for the remaining weeks down to 16 pages. Two extra weeks would make the average 14 pages, and 3 extra weeks would make it 12.5.


Sorry for having been so unresponsive to this discussion… I had my second Covid shot yesterday which made me very tired the whole afternoon and caused me to go to bed at 7 pm (and believe me, that’s not my normal style :sweat_smile:)

I’ve moved the discussion to the home thread as it feels more visible to me over there. Looking forward to the outcome, and thanks for your initiative to think again about the schedule!


Now I’m feeling even more proud of the Polish translator, because I could sense that irritation/obstruction when reading that translation. I’m not saying that this translation is error-free, but unfortunately I confirmed I’m not good enough to compare it with the original yet :smiley:

But I love reading other comparisons :heart: Even if

is indeed a sad state of things for the average not-Japanese-learner reader :<

Especially since when you pinpoint errors like this they seem so obvious and easy to spot.

(but I must admit my brain was fried during the July N3 JLPT by

because there was a lot of statistics in one of the texts in the reading section and after a while I wasn’t sure anymore what is more than what :stuck_out_tongue: But in 人間失格 it is only one comparison at once! :stuck_out_tongue: )


I still feel like the vocab and kanji is miles ahead in Re:zero. As a light novel the content and pace is much lighter, of course. Mainly thanks to the dialogue.


oh! Then no problem.

I don’t see it either. Does anyone know what’s supposed to give that impression?


I think a lot of it is just Dazai’s tone in general, but one big thing I notice about the passage (having read it out of curiosity if I could answer your question, so admittedly I was also looking for it), is that the whole of the imagery he paints about the ocean and the flowers seems to be a lead-up to subtly and bitingly cast aspersions on this school and its students’ futures.

Like, he weds the image of these cherry trees shedding beautiful blossoms that are then being battered directly back into the shore, directly with this image of a regional school he didn’t bother studying for but still “safely” got in - and then as the punchline the school proudly spackles those same cherry blossoms (that are smashed right back into the shore as soon as soon as they leave the tree) on all their insignias and all their students. Implying that they’re never going anywhere else either.

That’s my take anyway!
I think it’s less a case of text and more a case of subtext and what descriptive imagery is being used for, rather than the imagery itself. (but I could of course be off-base, and someone could have a completely different interpretation)


Thank you for this interpretation. On my first read through I was focused on the beauty, but reading it again it really does seem to be a sarcastic and ironic description of the school and its students. The cherry blossoms are tragically beautiful in their association with that third rate school, its students, and the fact that they can’t escape even after falling into the ocean.


And it really is still beautiful too!
It’s super impressive how he manages to conjure the beauty of a place so well while also basically just being a jerk about how the middle school he went to sucks without actually saying anything negative. I definitely agree it’s a captiving opener and reading it might have convinced me to try to catch up with the book club…
So thanks for posting it!