My Introduction to Japanese Literature

My Introduction to Japanese Literature

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai was my introduction to Japanese literature and to this day is one of the most memorable stories I've ever read. In fact, it is one of those books that marked a period of my life. It was a time when I was transitioning from being an adolescent to an adult, so for me it was a very important read. Unfortunately, this book is one of the most depressing books I have ever read.

The story is unrelenting in it's darkness. The main character is Yozo, a young man who is struggling with finding his place in the world, much like I was at the time I read it. Yozo never quite finds that place, due to the his not feeling human. He feels no empathy or sympathy for others, and really has no conscious. He's very self-aware, and at the same time, he is unable to really see himself. To me, he was a sociopath. In the end he is unable to continue his empty life after he has squandered his career as an illustrator, and he has succumed to his vices. The book is somewhat auto-biographical, the author commited suicide, like the character in the book.

Despite it being a very depressing this book gave me a glimpse of Japanese culture post World War II, a time when the West was begining to seep into mainstream Japan. The youth of Japan in those days were coming to grips with the increasing influence of European culture, and struggling to maintain an identity in a country that was changing.

Even though this book was brutally painful to read at times, it is still one of my favorites. Yozo is the quintessential tortured artist, which is a very Western concept. I read that it is being adapted to an anime, that should be interesting. I read Osamu's other famous novel Setting Sun recently, and it's also very bleak. I'll write about it one of these days. So that was the first Japanese book I ever read, and I hope to read more and blog about here. So, have you read any good Japanese books lately?