Trivia Week 7 The Saga of Dazai Osamu by Phyllis I. Lyons
chapters: The Journey Outward, Establishing the Writer
At this point, direct similarities between the author’s life and 人間失格’s character nearly disappear. The connection lies in the general mood, not in the life events.
first marriage (with geisha Oyama Hatsuyo)
Last time (Week 5) I mentioned that Dazai was to marry a geisha, Oyama Hatsuyo. He did marry her, but it wasn’t a happy marriage.
Firstly, Dazai was dismayed to discover that Hatsuyo wasn’t a virgin. He claimed he was sure she didn’t sleep with any of her clients. (I know that at least officially some geisha wouldn’t sleep with customers, but still.)
Osamu discovers that H had not been “innocent” before she knew him. He feels a fool, for he had trusted her word, and had bragged to his friends about her strength of character; at the same time, he cannot comfort himself that he, at least, has been a pillar of virtue.
But he stayed with her, he even continued with his political involvement at that time, which also was a reason his brother was reluctant to send him money, because he knew Dazai was supporting leftist movement with family money. He also moved a lot with his wife, to escape police surveillance. He was questioned by civil authorities on his political activities, he was released (again through Bunji’s intervention) and finally he abandoned the political movement.
He engaged with magazines:
Most of these journals last less than a year, but there have always been new ones forming, and they have offered a forum for new writers. In this rich environment, Dazai swam well.
(@icefang97 one of these magazines was with Nakahara Chuuya)
He was also writing The Final Years at that time, which was originally supposed to be his final work and a testament/will
Osamu had to keep up the pretense of going to school, because that was the only justification for money from home. How could he ask his brothers to collaborate in his death? Yet the strain of maintaining a semblance of normalcy was tremendous.
Then he fell sick, it turned out to be acute appendicitis and he was hospitalized. There were complications, supposedly doctors thought he wouldn’t survive, and accidentally made him an addict to morphine. (There is also mentioned that he got a good care because of his family connections, which also unfortunately resulted in good taking care of his pain; so he had good access to large, frequent doses).
After Dazai left the hospital, he was living some time as an addict, but finally he was put in the mental hospital so he would be cured. (Dazai later claims that he didn’t know what the plan was, but Lyons says that there is some correspondence which proves that it was his decision, too.)
They did cure him, but the experience was horrible and traumatizing. What’s worse, during his hospitalization, Hatsuyo had an affair.
Dazai didn’t decide on divorce, instead, he thought that a double suicide would be a perfect solution. They both survived and later Dazai claimed that it was on purpose because at the last moment he felt sorry for Hatsuyo and reduced her dose (they took sleeping pills). After that failed suicide attempt, they did finally divorce.
It isn’t know what exactly happened to Hatsuyo after that.
She died alone at the age of thirty-four, with nothing beside her but her handbag, it is said.
After that experience, Dazai married again, but this time he wanted his marriage arranged, in the traditional way.
some Lyons commentaries about No Longer Human
In No Longer Human, Dazai established forever his feelings for the woman who died. As Ōba Yōzō (Osamu) lies in the hospital after being pulled out of the sea, he thinks of the dead Tsuneko and weeps. “Of all the people I had ever known, that miserable Tsuneko really was the only one I loved.” (9: 410; tr. Keene 1958, 88.) Clearly, by the end of his life, Dazai had coalesced his feelings about this first suicide partner and H, and their betrayal of each other, into the only shred of human feeling Yōzō experiences. It is a betrayal crossed in such a complex pattern that all are equally guilty and equally sinned against: H abandoned Osamu by not giving him the reassurance that she cared enough for him to make up for his loss of his family; Osamu deserted H to die with another woman, and deserted the other woman by not dying; “Tsuneko” abandoned her husband to die with Osamu, stole another woman’s husband, and, by dying herself, left Osamu feeling abandoned and guilty that he had not died.
“Eight Views of Tokyo” speaks in general terms of Osamu’s tormented efforts to borrow money, of his weeping “right in front of some magazine editor,” of his attempts to extort story assignments and advances for stories not yet written. A dismal dialogue in “Standard-Bearer for the Twentieth Century” shows what it must have been like. Osamu had been assigned to write a piece on university students. He receives a postcard from the editor: “We can’t use this - it’s terrible. We will return it. Of course, we can’t pay you.” He confronts the man:
“I got your note. You’re sure my piece is… no good?”
“Um. It just doesn’t make it. Here, this is the one someone else wrote for us. This is what we need. It’s ‘real,’ statistical. Anyway, read yours again, and think about it.”
“I’ve always been a bad writer. I didn’t know how to do it any other way. Just all that whimpery stuff.”
“Whatever happened with the suicide, that ‘disappointed love’ one?”
“Lend me train fare, will you?”
His view of reality seems so different from that of the rest of the world that finally, in No Longer Human, he must confess defeat and pronounce himself mad. No matter if you consider yourself the only sane, clear-sighted around in a dull, mad world; it is they who make the rules and determine the limits of behavior and perception, and to the degree that you deviate from either, you are “unhealthy.”
Thx for the info as always. Now I kinda want to read the saga of Dazai Osamu.
The plot thickens. If I remember correctly Chuuya only wrote poems.
Here is my try at this week’s resume. Feel free to correct me if my understanding is wrong.
This week spoiler
-Dazai goes live at 堀木’a house and send a telegram(This made me remember how old that book was) to ヒラメ.
-When 堀木 get the telegram he pushes the MC(oba?) out and he goes live with the magazine lady that just appeared???
-He writes manga for the magazine of Tsuneko and gets money for it.
-Something about Tsukeko wanting her real dad then everyone gets mad???
-堀木 Come back and want to help the MC. Not sure if it was genuine or not though. It seems he had something in his mind claiming he was the 世間.
-I did not understand the last page. There was half a page WITHOUT dots. The MC and Tsuneko, I think, argue about The MC making a poor copy of another manga. Something about sleeping faces and 身はアサ and water flowing? It was 4-5 lines but I can’t make sense of it.
This week was hard. I know I already said it last week but I found it funny that I want to read Re Zero now because I find it kind of easy. There was a time when I read something easier to decompressed now it’s the easy read.
I think what happens is 堀木 receives a telegram from ヒラメ (because 葉蔵, the narrator, said he was going to 堀木 as an excuse in his note when he ran out, and then went over there anyway).
I don’t think we actually see what the telegram says, as 堀木 reads it and is basically like “dude you should go back - I’d love to help more but” and then シヅ子, who we meet here and who was visiting 堀木 coincidentally, is like “hey where’s your home - oh, that’s by the magazine where I work” and that snowballs into him just staying with her and her daughter シゲ子, because she wants to help him, he can get work in the magazine, and also presumably because of that attractive aura he talks about having a lot.
I believe what happens here is 葉蔵 forges an unusually stable and pleasant domestic life writing manga for シヅ子’s magazine, and even being called “daddy” by シゲ子. But he’s still him so he’s precariously on the verge of getting too weirded out by everything and running away out of alienation and fear, and in a conversation with シゲ子 she calls him a good person (which alienates him since people call him that and he doesnt’ get it) and then he’s especially hurt by her saying that she would wish for her real father.
I don’t think anyone gets mad, I think he just bottles it up in that way that he does.
So in this bit I think what happens is 堀木 shows up and is like “hey your manga’s getting pretty popular, nice going!” and calls 葉蔵 a 世渡りの才能, which super alienates 葉蔵 because if there’s one point he’s reiterated for us throughout this novel it’s that he does NOT feel like a 世渡りの才能.
And then 葉蔵 talks about how 堀木 has been helping him get back on his feet. I’m not sure how sincerely vs. not sincerely, mainly because I don’t know how much 5円 would have been at the time. But I do get the impression of like - the kinda helpful bro who’s trying to help but ends up keeping his distance and dragging you back into old habits a little too much.
Anyway, the society part I think is 堀木 saying “don’t sleep around too much dude, any more than this doesn’t really fly in society” (maybe saying he’s on thin ice after the lovers’ suicide scandal? Or just that he should settle down from their old brothel habits before it?)
and that seems to really tick 葉蔵 off because he goes into a long (internal) spiel about how he doesn’t get why someone would say “society wouldn’t like that” when really they mean THEY wouldn’t like that, and this somehow sparks more introspection about society and what it means than all those Marxist lectures and pamphlets earlier in the novel.
So – I don’t think 堀木 was claiming he was the 世間 - I think 葉蔵 got (internally) confused by / mad at 堀木 expressing his own opinions as though he were the 世間.
Dots? My edition might not have those… Do they mark the poem (that starts してその)?
As for the scene, I think what happens is - because of all the alienating feelings in the other scenes, 葉蔵 increasingly just tries to avoid シヅ子 and シゲ子 in favor of just drinking all day, so they don’t see each other much. Then he comes home after a day/night of drinking, and I find this scene hard to understand too.
I think the あサ (note that it’s a mix of hiragana and katakana - at least in my edition anyway) not at the end of her (?) sentences is an indication that she’s crying - the は turns into a wail and her emotive さ gets forcefully katakanized. Either that or maybe it’s an indication of her 山梨 accent? Or I’m completely off base of course! (EDIT to add - I think I did get this turned around, see later post)
Anyway it’s sad and unpleasant because she lightly compares his face to his cartoon character, and he insults her and says when she sleeps she looks like a 40 year-old man, and that’s when her crying (?) starts and she says it’s his fault and accuses him of “drinking up” people like, I guess, an emotional vampire, the same way he does the alcohol.
And it sounds like that’s the usual way they fall asleep at this point.
Hope that helps! There’s definitely a lot going on at this point! (and there’s plenty I might have off above too)
One fun option might also be the Junji Ito adaptation (or there’s at least one other manga adaptation on bookwalker too) - it’s not intensely faithful and definitely adds a lot of stuff, but visualization and a generally slower pace can go a long way too.
Out of curiosity, I actually noticed the section covered in this thread is the part covered by the free Bookwalker preview (試し読み) for the second volume.
Seems like, by Ito’s telling at least, I was wrong about who was talking when in the last scene and the サ is the narrator’s drunkenness showing through.
But on the other hand it kinda seems like that preview also shows a fully Ito-inserted character so maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth trying to keep them both straight.
(I buy Ito’s take on that scene by the way - さ is a masculineish ending after all, and シヅ子 is presented as generally idyllic and calm and not-drunk so it makes sense that the meanest things said would be on the narrator’s part - so I think I was indeed quite wrong, but the gist of “he comes home at night drunk and mean and it’s sad” certainly remains the case…)
That’s basically how my translation goes, so I guess there’s a high probability this summary is correct
The only difference is with that last scene - in Polish translation it’s first him insulting her, and then her insulting him; and he accuses her of being an emotional vampire. And she’s the one being calm. So like in Ito’s take.
I was actually very surprised reading this, because cheap パラソル was supposed to cost 7-8 yen, while their monthly rent was only 20 yen. Even if the rent also was supposed to be cheap, the ratio was weird for me.
And the rent costing only 13% of his earnings? Amazing.
I think clothes were pricey in particular, because there is also a 30 yen kimono:
I do get the impression that 堀木’s behavior is more on the sanctimonious side than genuinely being helpful then… that makes the 5円 number that the narrator specifically remembers and emphasizes sound pretty low for a loan to a friend in dire straits (though I don’t get the impression 堀木 is exactly rolling in money either…).
In fact, wait, looking at it again - is 堀木 the one borrowing money from 葉蔵?
I just kind of assumed it was the other way around but it seems like he might be the subject for 借りて.
I’d say most definitely. The last line confirms the “sleeping with” in the literal sense, at least:
(he falls asleep with his forehead on her chest)
Might be impeded generally by the escalating alcoholism, but it does seem to be an intimate relationship. And frankly I kinda get the impression his relationships with women in the book are sexual far more often than not…
Yeah, maybe it’s lingering memories of the Ito version talking, but I think when 葉蔵 meets someone new, Dazai tends to skip over a ton of the relationship building, directly into the whole thing established. In an important way I think the technique kind of simulates the character’s alienation, since we can’t connect the dots from A to B about why he’s important to these people any more than he himself can, but it leads to that “oh he’s sleeping with magazine lady and he’s her daughter’s surrogate dad now didn’t they like just meet a few pages ago - well ok” effect.