It was hard to figure out trivia for this week, both because of pace discussion and because realDazaitimeline and 人間失格timeline are starting to diverge around this point.
Anyway, it should be more or less safe to read, although there may be minor spoilers regarding general theme of this week’s portion.
Source for all info, as usual: The Saga of Dazai Osamu by Phyllis I. Lyons
chapters: The Journey Outward, The Journey Inward, Childhood and Adolescence
differences between Dazai's life and book events
First important difference is the fact that Dazai’s father died when Dazai was 13, meanwhile he is still alive in 人間失格 and protag even lives with him in Tokyo.
Second difference is that Dazai was starting to publish his works in his high school years, but 人間失格’s protag won’t become a writer.
(I said last time that Dazai was also into painting, but it doesn’t work the other way around.)
During his three Hirosaki years, from 1927 to 1930, Dazai was busy writing for all the local sources open to him. He was on the literary staff of the school paper; he published in the Aomori literary magazine “Zahyou” and the local newspapers.
Also Ōba got into politics after his arrival in Tokyo, while Dazai was politically conscious much earlier. He also seemed more emotionally invested in social equality than Ōba is claiming to be.
Hirosaki is the place discussed in the previous week discussion, the regional school with the cheery trees and the ocean (I think? the location of the city, near the shore, fits, at least; but on the other hand many places in Japan are near the shore). I think both boys are around the same age, but Dazai moved his protag into Tokyo when he himself was still in Hirosaki (?) and didn’t move to Tokyo until University (?). At least that’s how I understood it.
And maybe I should say Shūji Tsushima instead of real!Dazai, but it somehow seems wrong to me. I’m too used to his pen-name.
In realDazaicase, he was thinking about social ideas since the very young age:
His political conscience was awakening. He had tried out some of those new ideas earlier, to little effect.
<[…]Still, I would help servants in the summer cut the grass in the garden, or in winter lend a hand in sweeping snow from the roof of the house, and while I worked, I would teach them about this “democracy.” But in the end, I realized that the servants were not especially pleased to have my help. It turned out that they would have to go over and redo my “help.”>(from Recollections)
The problem of ideology became intermingled with that preexisting concern, truthfulness:
<[…]He [teacher] opened: “You wrote, ‘Teachers are human and I’m human,’ but are all men equal?" I muttered that I thought so. I was becoming hopelessly tongue-tied. “Well then,” he asked me, “if the principal and I are both equal, why are out salaries different?” I thought a while and answered, “Well, isn’t it because your work is different?” Putting on his steel-rimmed glasses, the thin-faced assistant immediately wrote my answer in his notebook. Until then, I had liked this teacher. Then he posed a final question to me: “Are we your father’s equals?” I was on the spot, and couldn’t answer anything.> (from Recollections)
Then it had been a child’s problem. But now it was an adult concern. The late 1920’s was a time of great political agitation. The nationwide roundup of leftist activists on March 15, 1928, had a deep impact on young people and the students of Hirosaki College were no exception. They demonstrated their political consciousness in February 2919 when they held a week-long strike to protest misappropriation of school funds by the college’s principal, Suzuki Shintarou; Dazai was a member of the strike organizing committee. Furthermore, Dazai writes in “An Almanac of Pain”, he was deeply tormented by his position of son of one of the wealthiest landowners in Aomori. <I approved of armed insurrection. A revolution without the guillotine is meaningless. However, I was not of the common people. I was of the class that was to be sent to the guillotine.>
Other relevant bits:
The monthly allowance Dazai’s family was sending him at the time was about 150 yen a month, or the equivalent of a college professor’s salary.
[…] his family, no matter how seemingly blessed, was of base peasant origins; its wealth had been built on lending money at high interest rates to unfortunate peasants just like themselves.
The decline of his family, starting before the war with charges of voter fraud when his eldest brother ran for the Diet, and continuing after it with the land reform that broke up the base of their wealth[…]
Dazai's suicide at the age of 19 (not covered by 人間失格)
So, basically, when Dazai was still in Hirosaki, Ōba is already in Tokyo.
And when Dazai was 19, he had a suicide attempt using sleeping pills which isn’t covered in 人間失格. It is, however, covered in “An Almanac of Pain”. In the quote below Souma Shouichi comes back, I mentioned who he is during Week 2 trivia (More about fiction vs reality).
In “An Almanac of Pain” Dazai stresses his political confusion and guilt as the source of his first suicide attempt with an overdose of sleeping pills when he was nineteen. Dazai was in fact vague dating the attempt, and chronologies compiled by early critics who relied only on Dazai’s testimony have a number of different dates. More recent research by critics such as Souma Shouichi, who have done much to separate fact from Dazai’s fiction, not only fixed the date at December 10, 1929, but suggests that more than ideological confusion and class guilt were troubling Dazai at the time. Souma points out that this was the night before second-semester final examinations at Hirosaki College. Dazai had entered college neat the top of his class; by the end of the first he had fallen to thirty-one of thirty-five. At the time of the suicide attempt, as a result of his extracurricular activities in writing and entertainment, he would quite likely not have been able to complete seven out of his eleven courses. That suicide attempt, however serious in intention, might have been a way of escaping other unpleasant consequences, is not unlikely. Dazai himself owns up to a similar sort of subterfuge in “Recollections” when he describes using his father’s death as an excuse for getting a waiver of the high school entrance examination. Souma does not doubt the suicide attempt, but gives less weight to Dazai’s political consternation than to potentially disastrous effect on his pride of flunking school. Both factors combined would have amounted to considerable cause for upset.
So, this bit, on the other hand, is in favor of “Dazai was socially conscious, but it wasn’t the most/the only important thing for him at the time”.