JAPAN: ‘Ningen shikkaku‘, literally translating to ‘No longer human’, is a 1948 novel by Osamu Dazai. The brilliantly haunting novel is now considered a classic of Japanese literature and is the second most selling novel in Japan after Natsume Sōseki’s ‘Kokoro’.
In today’s era, the book emanates depressing black illumination. Although, some people have found this book more fascinating than potentially depressing. Precisely, ‘No longer human’ is the accurate depiction of true depression and anxiety.
Interestingly the story is told through a device, that is Yōzō‘s journal, which is discovered by the narrator. To simply describe the reading experience, the reader eventually resigns oneself to the loneliness of the protagonist.
No Longer Human
No Longer Human is a powerful explanation of an individual’s isolation from the society. The book tells the story of a twenty-seven-year-old man Ōba Yōzō, who witnesses the deterioration of his life and all its aspects. In the book, Dazai addresses the cyclical nature of madness and social obscureness. Moreover, the main character’s loneliness and social anxiety prompt him to take destructive behaviors which isolate him further from the company and help of others he desperately needs.
The outlandishness of the sincerity in which Yōzō describes his condition can shake the readers. The main character is in self-despair and although he could avoid sharing his misanthropic viewpoint at times with which he described himself and the world, he never got out of the complex.
The character, through impression from the narration is not obnoxious of his environment. He is not trying to foist his misery upon others by destroying them, instead, he seeks to destroy his own pain.
The sincerity made him the most convincing rendering of somebody who is absolutely baffled by the actions of human beings.
While the story touched solipsistic insanity, dramatic pain, and brutality, the undertone of the writing gave away a sophisticated impression of the main character. The striking prose remains subdued and polite throughout, which is a stunning contrast to the events described.
The book is believably a semi-autobiography of the Dazai. In retrospect, he indulged in alcohol and prostitutes when he was younger. In addition, he tried to commit suicide several times. Uniformly in the book, the character tortured himself with the thoughts that he’s not entitled to love and happiness. He hides behind a jokester-like character all the time when talking to several people in the book.
Dazai died in a double suicide after publishing the book with his lover Tomie Yamazaki. Similar is echoed in the novel, although Yōzō does not evaporate, he doesn’t come out smelling like roses either. His loathing for “human beings” that’s being repeated several times in the book is justified towards the end. He lapses into self-pity – the worst sin, since it can excuse anything in the sinner’s own mind.
Ningen Shikkaku was adapted to film in 2009, the 100th anniversary of Dazai’s birth. The film was directed by Genjiro Arato.