Week 4: 人間失格

Join the Advanced Book Club here!

人間失格 Home Thread

Week 4


Start Date: July 24th
Previous Part: Week 3
Next Part: Week 5


Week Start Date Chapter / End Phrase End Page Kindle LOC Kindle % Page Count
Week 4 July 24th 第二の手記: 「お酒だけか? うちも飲もう」 61 678 40% 18

Discussion Rules

  • Please use spoiler tags for major events in the current chapter(s) and any content in future chapters.
  • When asking for help, please mention the chapter and page number. Also mention what version of the book you are reading.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions, even if they seem embarrassing at first. All of us are here to learn.
  • To you lurkers out there: Join the conversation, it’s fun! :durtle:


Mark your participation status by voting in this poll.
(Please feel free to update your status whenever you like!)

  • I’m reading along
  • I have finished this part
  • I’m still reading the book but I haven’t reached this part yet
  • I am no longer reading the book

0 voters

1 Like

Please note that we are currently discussing whether we should change the pace for this book, starting from this week:

The outcome may affect the end of this week’s reading.

1 Like

This week was hard for me. I wasn’t in the best mood to focus this week so my fault this time.

This week stuff

Lots of complicated stuff this week for me. I will make a small resume and I would like if people would add stuff that I miss or correct wrong statements.
1-He become friend with someone who shows him around Tokyo including bars and prostitutes. He believes that his, like him, is an outcast. His friend is only there because he is a good entertainer.
2-Alcohol made him forget temporarily his fear of humans. He received letters from these prostitutes.
3-He joined a Marxist group because of his friend. He likes being unlawful. There is something about a 運動 group or something.
4-His father (lost his job?) so changed house where the MC now lives alone with a small amount of money.
5-He asks for money from his relatives.
6-He passes school even if he isn’t attending much anymore. His brothers speak to him about school on behalf of their father.
7-He is in love with three girls. One who lives with him, one in his 運動 group, and someone at a cafe.

This is the bulk of my understanding so if someone has so infos that I am missing please tell me.


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.

politics stuff

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”.


I seriously think that someone who is actually reading the original should answer this, but since you got no reply so far, I’ll do my best basing my info on the translation, and everyone linguistically smarter than me is welcome to do further corrections :woman_shrugging:t2:

Reply to icefang

The general outline is correct, you didn’t miss anything big :upside_down_face:
1. It was also important that his new friend was raised in Tokyo and he was a city boy, while our protag - a country boy - was feeling lost in the big city. So Ōba provided money, his friend provided entertainment and guidance.
2. Yes, alcohol and sex with prostitutes helped him with his fears. He is describing himself as very popular with women in general, not just prostitutes, but while women are a way to forget, he also seems annoyed by their attention.
4. His father was a politician, he just didn’t have his term of office (I’m not sure about the correct English word) extended. I guess you could still call it losing a job :stuck_out_tongue:
5. Yes, it’s sort of default Dazai’s/Ōba state :wink: He was feeling an outcast, but still relied heavily on the family’s help. (Okay, maybe I’m being unfair, because there were periods when he was self-sufficient thanks to his artistic achievements.)
6. Yes, around this time Dazai/Ōba stopped being the good student (because of all that Marxist/entertainment stuff; he got too distracted), but still managed to not get kicked out.
7. I’m not sure if “love” is the proper word… there were three girls who were especially attracted to protag according to his own words. :wink:


I was waiting for these trivia, thx as always.

Dazai is not his real name??? I… I see.

I never thought Dazai was so much into politics. Then again I never knew anything about him except the suicides stuff.

That is pretty young.

Thanks for the help. The small nuances you added are really nice. So his friend’s name(who I never read successfully) is the same as the real life one? Interesting. Is Oba one of his writer friends or not? I know he had Ango sakakuchi and another one.

1 Like

Oba is the 人間失格’s protag’s name. Ōba Yōzō (大庭葉蔵). I always forget character’s names too.
As for the friend himself, I have no idea if he is based on the specific real person. Some tumblr dedicated to Bungou Stray Dogs (but very faithfully dedicated, they also read Phyllis I. Lyons :wink: ) says he’s not or rather they also didn’t hear about any leads.

1 Like

My take on @icefang97’s points


1 Matches my understanding.
2. After practicing with the prostitutes he acquired an aura that made him popular. The letters (or other tokens of appreciation which are not described) are not from prostitutes but from random women around him (shop attendant, a neighbor, a girl from his home town, etc.)
3. Indeed he joins the group just because he likes the unlawfulness (which Keene weirdly translates as “irrationality”) and the atmosphere I guess, but is not really interested in the ideas themselves. The 運動 is about members of the group asking him to do more and more tasks for the group, to a point where it takes him a lot of time an energy and he wants to escape from all of it.
4. As Aislin said, his father’s term of office ended and he didn’t run for a new one so retired in the country or something. So the protagonist moves to a 下宿 (boarding house).
5 Yup.
6 Yeah he goes to school so rarely that he nearly fails to meet the minimum attendance, and the school sends a letter to his family.
7 It’s pretty clear he’s not in love with them, he finds them annoying, wants them to go away, but also doesn’t seem to be able to tell them so? I guess it’s his fear of humans that makes him just play along and try not to offend people.


Didn’t understand the part about the おまけの附録 with the prostitutes, to be honest.

It can be confusing because when he starts talking about the おまけの附録, he doesn’t explain what it is at first.

As he visited these prostitutes regularly, somehow without realizing he gained this “extra freebie”, that was so apparent that Horiki pointed it out to him. Then he explains that he became quite skilled at whatever you do with prostitutes, and that somehow women (not just prostitutes) could detect it instinctively. This “obscene and shameful aura” (卑猥で不名誉な雰囲気) is what he refers to as おまけの附録.

Hope that helps.


Thanks. I guess I didn’t really miss anything then. I just didn’t understand why the 卑猥で不名誉な雰囲気 was a おまけの附録. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


「お酒だけか? うちも飲もう」

I really like this exchange. The atmosphere and chemistry between the two is quite romantic. It’s the kind of scene a great film director (maybe Wong Kar Wai?) could turn into something magical.


You all moved past this point long ago, but I just wanted to add that 運動 can also refer to a ‘political’ movement in addition to the physical kind. This is the meaning I read it as in relation to the group.

1 Like