Week 5: 人間失格

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人間失格 Home Thread

Week 5


Start Date: July 31th
Previous Part: Week 4
Next Part: Week 6


Week Start Date Chapter / End Phrase End Page Kindle LOC Kindle % Page Count
Week 5 July 31th 第二の手記 End 77 864 51% 16

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Hello Nicole

runs back to lurkland

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Trivia Week 5
The Saga of Dazai Osamu by Phyllis I. Lyons
The Journey Outward, pages 29-31 (it was a very prolific fragment)

Kamakura incident (this week's spoilers) (also long)

I admit I laughed (bitterly!) at the:


fragment from this week’s reading. What’s more, it’s true - nobody to this day is sure about the girl’s name.

Tanako Shimeko, aged nineteen, worked at the Hollywood Cafe, on Tokyo’s main commercial thoroughfare, the Ginza. […] The name of Dazai’s first suicide partner has never been fully established. Her family name has been spelled with a number of different characters; her first name has been reported variously as Shimeko, Atsumi, Junko, and several others, although Shimeko does seem to have been her official name.

Some further description of the incident:

Dazai and Shimeko spent two days drinking and wandering around Tokyo, went out to the seaside resort of Kamakura on November 29, and threw themselves into the sea off Tamotogaura, supposedly a point on the small nearby island of Enoshima. Passing fishing boats pulled Dazai out in time, but Shimeko was dead when they finally retrived her. So goes Dazai’s version, and early critics took him at his word and refer to this incident as the “attempted death by drowning”; but the research of Nagashino Kouichirou and the others suggests that Dazai and Shimeko took sleeping pills on the shore at Koyurugigazaki, a point on the mainland across from Enoshima (Tamatogaura is local designation for part of Koyurugigazaki) and that their bodies were found there, on shore. In one fictionalization of the incident, “Hi no tori”, Dazai in fact makes no mention of drowning.
Taken to a rest home named Keifuuen in Kamakura, Dazai was later charged as an accomplice to the woman’s suicide. The charges were dropped when Bunji applied some political pressure.

Doubts about method of this suicide attempt may grow even stronger when we take into account that Dazai knew how to swim. Of course, I’m not saying that swimming ability makes it impossible for someone to drown, but… Dazai even says this in 東京八景:


Btw, it’s another moment when I started bitterly laughing. “首は、人並はずれて太いのかも知れない”. Yes. Sure. Of course. Aha.


I think it’s also worthy to add that in real life, this Kamakura suicide attempt happened after Dazai was “disowned” by his family (in reality, they just made him a head of a branch family, but Dazai didn’t took that well, emotionally).
And this disinheritance happened because Dazai decided to marry a geisha, Oyama Hatsuyo. Lyons doesn’t think it was his plan from the beginning:

Dazai had apparently not planned to marry Hatsuyo but only to enjoy her favors, in imitation of the tastes of the elegant traditional artists he had started to model himself on during his college days in Hirosaki

but when his family started to push him to leave Hatsuyo alone, he became very stubborn about marriage:

Bunji, as family head, came to Tokyo immediately to attempt to dissuade Dazai from what everyone thought was, and later turned out to be, folly. When Dazai proved adamant about keeping her with him, Bunji made an alternate proposal: he would be allowed to marry Hatsuyo, but would be set up as head of a branch family, being removed thereby from the main Tsushima family register. There were two conditions: he would not be given the property settlement that was customary with the establishment of branch houses, but instead would receive a monthly stipend of 120 yen while he was at university; and he would not be allowed into the family home. Dazai accepted. Bunji was allowed to take Hatsuyo back to Aomori until he could buy her contract from her house.

(Since she was a geisha, there was apparently a buyout needed, and it’s not Dazai that paid for her, because he didn’t have money, but his brother.)
And the suicide happened after he got reluctant approval of this arrangement, not before. (To be precise, a week after.) And his suicide partner, the girl with an unclear name, wasn’t someone he knew well, he had just met her.

Starting university

In April 1930, Dazai entered the Department of French Literature at Tokyo Imperial University, Japan’s premier institution of higher education. “I didn’t know a word of French, but I wanted to hear the lectures on French literature,” he says in “Recollections”; a much repeated story has it that he chose that department because he had heard they had few applications and no entrance examination. In fact, Dazai was dismayed to discover, there was an examination, a portion of which was in French. He had to report his total incapacity to Professor Tatsuno Yutaka, a famous translator of French poetry mentioned in “Recollections” as being a man Dazai “faintly revered”; Tatsuno is said to have been so entertained at Dazai’s cheek that he admitted him despite his lack of qualifications.

Literary stuff update

Dazai’s literary efforts for the moment seem to have been limited to continuing previous commitments in Aomori. “Jinushi ichidai” was being serialized in Zahyou; it eventually remained incomplete because, explained a note in later issue of the magazine, there were “certain external circumstances beyond the author’s control". The circumstances were never explained, but it is known that this story of a villainous and degenerate landowner, based on a tenants farmers’ revolt that had taken place in Akita, had displeased Dazai’s brother Bunji by its resemblance in details to the Tsushima family situation.


Phew. This week’s reading felt pretty challenging and took me forever.

Thanks @Aislin for all the extra context, it’s very interesting!

I’ll just mention one thing that I found amusing in the French version, and it’s not a mistake (although there are still some). It’s that the translator felt it was necessary to add a footnote explaining what sushi is. And it’s entirely possible that it was necessary in 1962!


The good news is that we are now over half way through the novel!


So, the bit at the end:

鴎 が、「女」という字みたいな形で飛んでいました。

Are we talkin, like,



Seems like either some very disorganized gulls, or two migrating sets passing each other… (or, more likely, artistic license) (the same kind I took in depicting the “夕焼けの空”…)

I’d also be really curious to hear how that was handled in translation!


That’s how I understood it :grin:

In Polish, literally, “character for a woman”. Unfortunately, there was no annotation how this character actually looks like :wink:


It really did!

It’s pretty satisfying to have reached the end of another section though, not to mention 50 percent.

:woman_facepalming: That really puts things into perspective.