Week 3: 人間失格

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:

海の、波打際、といってもいいくらいに海にちかい岸辺に、真黒い樹肌の山桜の、かなり大きいのが二十本以上も立ちならび、新学年がはじまると、山桜は、褐色のねばっこいような嫩葉わかばと共に、青い海を背景にして、その絢爛けんらんたる花をひらき、やがて、花吹雪の時には、花びらがおびただしく海に散り込み、海面をちりばめて漂い、波に乗せられ再び波打際に打ちかえされる、その桜の砂浜が、そのまま校庭として使用せられている東北の或る中学校に、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。そうして、その中学の制帽の徽章きしょうにも、制服のボタンにも、桜の花が図案化せられて咲いていました。

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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: )

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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.

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oh! Then no problem.

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

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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)

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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.

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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!

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Woohoo, made it through week 3! It was pretty rough, so I’m just pleased I didn’t give up, even if I’m not really on schedule anymore :sweat_smile:

Thanks for your thoughts about the cherry blossom passage, @rodan. These thoughts never occurred to me when I was reading (i.e. ploughing through) the text! I’d be keen to read some more literary analyses, but I imagine the bulk of the secondary literature is in Japanese…

This bit of translation amused me

たいへんほめられ、さらに二枚三枚と、つづけ

It seems to use と in this manner:

Screenshot 2021-07-28 at 21.51.05

But Keene translates it as:

He was very enthusiastic, and I painted two or three more, plus a picture of a ghost

I tried to stick with extensive reading, but I always get sucked into matters of detail…

の、波打際、といってもいいくらいににちかい岸辺に、真黒樹肌山桜、かなりきい二十以上ちならび

What are those bolded のs doing there? I don’t really understand how the sentence structure works there.

生れてはじめて、謂わば他郷へ出たわけなのですが

I don’t really recognise the way わけ is being used here. Keene just translates:

This was my first experience living in a strange town.

What am I missing…?

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I’m not 100% either so I’d be curious to hear any other takes, but I think maybe the first bolded の is just the regular one but with a comma after it, and the second one is the nominalizing kind.
So like, if かなり大きい の would be “fairly big ones” and 真黒い樹肌の山桜 の would be “of the black barked cherry trees” then like this it would be like, “of black barked cherry trees, more than twenty fairly big ones were in a row…”

I think he could have just said かなり大きい の真黒い樹肌の山桜, but he wanted to introduce the trees first and then elaborate on them, so it ends up 真黒い樹肌の山桜の、かなり大きいの.

わけ’s kind of hard to verbalize, (Jisho tries with “conclusion from reasoning, judgement or calculation based on something read or heard; reason; cause; meaning; circumstances; situation​”) but I think this is the same kind of わけ as in like, “わけではない” (“it’s not the case that…” ish) just positive.

Like he’s concluding it was his first time, or he’s just emphasizing that conclusion/the fact of it for what he’s about to say next.

Like I’d maybe translate it over-literally as something like:
“This would have been the first time since I was born that I left for a so-called ‘strange land’ but…”
(I don’t know how the sentence ends, but I could imagine, e.g. “… I took to it like a fish to water”)
and you can maybe see how that might be a little different from:
“for the first time since I was born I left for a so-called ‘strange land’ but…”
(different endings spring to mind like e.g. “… soon had to return home because of circumstances.”)
(which is more what I think a わけless version would sound like)

I’d say the translation does something similar in a slightly different way by using “my first experience.”

Does that help at all? I’m not sure how clear that was… :sweat_smile:

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Thanks! The second bit makes total sense to me. With regards to the first question, I can see why there would be a の in かなり大きいの (the nominalising thing makes sense), but I don’t see why that first の should be there? I thought you used counters after the noun and particle, like:

山桜 (noun) が (particle) 二十本 (counter) 以上も立ちならび.

So then, if you want to add the extra qualification it would end up being:

山桜、かなり大きいのが二十本以上も立ちならび.

Is the extra の there just to make sure 山桜 isn’t left hanging all particle-less…?

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