My rating: 5 of 5 stars
TW: suicide, substance abuse, misogyny
No Longer Human, Osamu Dazai’s last work, is a heavy semi-autobiographical novel told mostly through the abandoned memoirs of Oba Yozo, a man whose failure to understand and properly interact with a thoroughly westernized pre-WWII Japanese society forces him to live under the assumption that he is disqualified from humanity. The narrative is bookended by an observer whose findings reframe Yozo’s life through a set of more forgiving, though by no means rose-tinted, lenses.
I find Yozo to be an incredibly well-written character. This does not mean that I like him as a person; on the contrary he is melancholy, irresponsible, and thus extremely difficult to like. However, his mistakes are painfully human. This being said, Yozo’s narration is at times dominated by an unusual misogyny that uncomfortably extends beyond the already alienating context of his misanthropy. Even more concerning for a semi-autobiographical novel, quite a few women are written by Dazai to passively conform to Yozo’s views concerning a vulnerable, inscrutable woman.
This intolerance, though, is a human fault. Inexcusable, but quietly human. Passing judgements onto Yozo’s faults inevitably made me question my own. The text, though genuinely depressing, sits at an extremely accessible 177 pages. No Longer Human is a novel I will return to when my values will have unrecognizably shifted, and one that I recommend best with a highlighter, a good pen, and an open mind. —Review by Jason S. ’25
Jason’s book recommendations for those who enjoyed No Longer Human:
Notes from the Underground is a strikingly similar work; indeed, Dazai even explicitly communicates his Dostoevsky influences at one point in No Longer Human.
Siddhartha is a very interesting piece in comparison.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men explores many of the same issues in radically different contexts, particularly the story “The Depressed Person.”
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