No Longer Human
|1948 (English translation 1958)|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Preceded by||A Cherry|
No Longer Human (人間失格 Ningen Shikkaku?) is a Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai. Published after Run Melos and The Setting Sun, No Longer Human is considered Dazai's masterpiece and ranks as the second-best selling novel in Japan, behind Natsume Sōseki's Kokoro.
The literal translation of the title, discussed by Donald Keene in his preface to the English translation, is "Disqualified from Being Human". (The Italian translation was titled Lo squalificato, The Disqualified.)
This novel, despite being serialized as a work of fiction in 1948, is narrated in the first person and contains several elements which betray an autobiographical basis, such as suicide—a recurring theme in the author's life. Many also believe the book to have been his will, as he took his own life shortly after the last part of the book was published, on June 13, 1948. This is not accurate, though, as he had started work on it long before.
No Longer Human is told in the form of notebooks left by one Ōba Yōzō (大庭葉蔵?), a troubled man incapable of revealing his true self to others, and who is instead forced to uphold a facade of hollow jocularity.
The novel is composed of three chapters, or "memoranda", which chronicle the life of Ōba from early childhood to late twenties.
- First Memorandum: Overcome by an intense feeling of alienation and otherness and finding it nearly impossible to understand those who surround him who live in egoism and bad faith, Ōba can't help but resort to buffoonery in order to establish interpersonal relationships. He is abused by a female servant during his childhood, but decides reporting it would be useless.
- Second Memorandum: Ōba becomes increasingly concerned over the potential penetrability of his cheerful facade by his schoolmate Takeichi, who sees through his false buffoonery. Ōba befriends him to prevent Takeichi from revealing his secret. As he shows Takeichi the ghost-like paintings of Amedeo Modigliani, he realizes that certain artists express the inner truth of human cruelty through their own trauma. Ōba paints a self-portrait inspired by these artists, which is so dreadful that he dares not show it to anyone except Takeichi, who esteems the picture. He neglects his university studies, out of fear of collective life. Under the influence of a fellow artist he meets at a painting class, Horiki, he descends into a vicious cycle of drinking, smoking and harlotry, culminating in a one-night stand with a married woman with whom he attempts to commit double suicide by drowning. Though he survives, she dies, leaving him with nothing but an excruciating feeling of guilt.
- Third Memorandum, Part One: Ōba is expelled from university, and comes under the care of a friend of the family. He tries to have a normal relationship with a single mother, serving as a surrogate father to her little girl, but abandons them in favor of living with the madam of a bar he patronizes. Since then he tries to believe the meaning of society is an individual to escape fear of humanity and drinks much inspired by Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Later, he falls into a relationship with a young and naive woman who asked him to stop drinking.
- Third Memorandum, Part Two: Thanks to this woman's grounding influence on his life, Ōba stops drinking and finds gainful work as a cartoonist. Then Horiki shows up, turning Ōba to self-destructive behavior again. Worse, at the moment of recalling Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky while he discusses the antonym of crime with Horiki, Ōba becomes estranged from his wife following an incident where she is sexually assaulted by a casual acquaintance. Over time Ōba becomes an alcoholic and a morphine addict. He is eventually confined to a mental institution, and, upon release, moves to an isolated place, concluding the story with numb self-reflection.
The story is bookended with two other, shorter chapters from the point of view of a neutral observer, who sees three photos of Ōba and eventually tracks down one of the characters mentioned in the notebooks who knew him personally.
Ōba refers to himself throughout the book using the reflexive pronoun "Jibun" (自分?), whereas the personal pronoun "Watashi" (私?) is used both in the foreword and afterword to the book by the writer, whose name is unclear. The name "Ōba" is actually taken from one of Dazai's early works, "Petals of Buffoonery" (道化の華?).
Ningen Shikkaku was adapted to film in 2009, the 100th anniversary of Dazai's birth. The film was directed by Genjiro Arato, the producer responsible for the award-winning Zigeunerweisen in 1980. Filming started in July, and it was released on February 20, 2010.
The film stars Toma Ikuta (24) as Ōba Yōzō, a young man who finds it hard to relate to the world around him, but masks this sense of alienation with a jovial demeanor. Still, his life spirals toward self-destruction. Actress Satomi Ishihara (22) plays one of the several women in his life, and the only one he marries.
The film was marketed outside of Japan under the title Fallen Angel.
Another adaption of the story was told in the four first episodes of the anime series Aoi Bungaku that was released in 2009. The anime won the Platinum Grand Prize at the Future Film festival in Italy.
Usamaru Furuya created a three-volume manga version of No Longer Human, serialized in Shinchosha's Comic Bunch magazine beginning in number 10, 2009. An English edition was published by Vertical, Inc. in 2011–2012.
Yasunori Ninose created another manga version of No Longer Human, titled Ningen Shikkaku Kai (壊,"kai" = "destruction"), serialized in Champion Red from April to July in 2010. Unlike Furuya's version, this manga depicts human beings' negative emotion and sexual intercourse as tentacles, which have enthralled Ninose since he was five years old.
A third version (ISBN 978-4872578102), a straight retelling of the story in its original pre-WWII setting, was commissioned for the Manga de Dokuha series (comic adaptations of classic literature), published by Gakken. An English edition was published in online format by JManga in 2011.
William Bradbury of The Japan Times called it a timeless novel, saying that "The struggle of the individual to fit into a normalizing society remains just as relevant today as it was at the time of writing." Serdar Yegulalp of Genji Press noted the strength of Dazai in portraying the situation of the protagonist, describing the novel as "bleak in a way that is both extreme and yet also strangely unforced". Both critics have noted the autobiographical qualities of the novel, but claim that Dazai's style causes readers to connect to Ōba rather than focus on the author.
- "Takeshi Obata Illustrates Cover for Best-Selling Japanese Novel". ComiPress. August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men, Japanese edit pp. 448–451 by Naoko Miyaji (2005, mainly Richard Gartner) ISBN 4-86182-013-8
- "No Longer Human Anime Wins at Italy's Future Film Fest". Anime News Network. April 26, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
- "Toronto Comic Arts Festival to Host Usamaru Furuya". Anime News Network. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "No Longer Human". Vertical, Inc. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "マンガ界の奇才が太宰に挑む 『人間失格 壊』". Men's Cyzo (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- "No Longer Human". JManga. Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Bradbury, William. "No Longer Human". The Japan Times. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- Yegulalp, Serdar. "Book Reviews: No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai)". Genji Press. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- No Longer Human Movie Official Site
- "China: Novel Approach to Japan", NHK World" (video; in English), May 7, 2015. Growing popularity of novel in China.