No Longer Human

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No Longer Human
Cover of first edition
AuthorOsamu Dazai
Original title人間失格
PublisherChikuma Shobō
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint
Preceded byA Cherry 
Followed byGoodbye 

No Longer Human (Japanese: 人間失格, Hepburn: Ningen Shikkaku), also translated as A Shameful Life, is a 1948 novel by Japanese author Osamu Dazai. It tells the story of a troubled man incapable of revealing his true self to others, and who, instead, maintains a facade of hollow jocularity, later turning to a life of alcoholism and drug abuse before his final disappearance. The original title translates as "Disqualified as a human being"[1] or "A failed human".[2] The book was published one month after Dazai's suicide at the age of 38.[2] No Longer Human is considered a classic of postwar Japanese literature[3] and Dazai's masterpiece,[4] which enjoys considerable popularity among younger readers.[5] It ranks as the second best-selling novel by publishing house Shinchōsha, behind Sōseki Natsume's Kokoro.[5]


No Longer Human is told in the form of notebooks left behind by the principal character Ōba Yōzō (大庭葉蔵). These are divided into three chapters which chronicle Ōba's life from his early childhood to his late twenties. The notebooks are bookended by a preface and an epilogue by a nameless narrator, who is given Ōba's notebooks by a mutual acquaintance ten years after they had been written.

The First Notebook[edit]

Afflicted with an intense feeling of alienation and otherness and finding it nearly impossible to understand those who surround him, Ōba resorts to buffoonery in early years to establish interpersonal relationships. Establishing the mood of the rest of the book, Ōba describes humans as he is separate from them, describing them foolishly and always perplexed by humans. He also describes numerous times that his antics is a way to not anger humans and not to be taken seriously to avoid reprimands. He is sexually abused by a male servant and a female servant during his childhood but decides that reporting it would be useless.

The Second Notebook[edit]

Ōba becomes increasingly concerned over the potential penetrability of his cheerful facade when his schoolmate Takeichi sees through one of his false buffooneries. Ōba befriends him to prevent Takeichi from revealing his secret. Inspired by a painting of Van Gogh which Takeichi shows him, he starts to paint to express his inner agony through art. Ōba paints a self-portrait which is so dreadful that he dares not show it to anyone except Takeichi, who predicts him a future as a great artist.

After finishing high school, Ōba is sent to Tokyo to visit the university. Influenced by a fellow artist, Horiki, whom he meets at a painting class, Ōba descends into a pattern of drinking, smoking and harlotry, and attends communist meetings without being a staunch follower. After spending the night with a married woman, he attempts to commit shinjū (double suicide) with her by drowning. He survives and she dies, leaving him with an excruciating feeling of guilt.

The Third Notebook: Part One[edit]

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 soon he returns to his drinking habits and his fear of humanity and abandons them. He then lives with the madam of a bar before he meets Yoshiko, a young and inexperienced woman who wants him to stop drinking.

The Third Notebook: Part Two[edit]

Thanks to Yoshiko'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, Yoshiko is sexually assaulted by a casual acquaintance. The terror and despair brought on by this incident estranges Ōba from his wife and leads him to another suicide attempt with soporific drugs.

Released from the hospital where he was taken after his suicide attempt, Ōba becomes a morphine addict. He is confined to a mental institution and, upon release, moves to an isolated place with his brother's help, concluding the story with the comment that he feels neither happy nor unhappy now.


The novel, narrated in first person, is categorized under the semi-autobiographical genre since the characters in the book are all fictional. The novel presents recurring themes in the author's life, including suicide, social alienation, and depression.[6] Much like the protagonist Yōzō, Dazai attempted suicide a total of five times in his lifetime, with consorts, until ultimately succeeding in taking his own life with his lover at the time, a woman named Tomie Yamazaki.[7]


In his 2014 review of No Longer Human, 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." He also pointed out that the "blunt" style distanced the book from the tone of an actual autobiography, despite the similarities to Dazai's own personal life.[8] Serdar Yegulalp of Genji Press noted (in 2007) 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".[9]

One modern analyst, Naoko Miyaji, has proposed Dazai was suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder when he wrote the book.[10]

English translations[edit]

The novel was first translated into English by Donald Keene as No Longer Human, published 1958 by New Directions in Norfolk, Connecticut. This translation was published in the UK by Peter Owen Publishers in 1959.[11]

The novel received another English translation in 2018 by Mark Gibeau as A Shameful Life, published by Stone Bridge Press.[12]

For 2024, Tuttle Publishing announced a new translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter.[13]

Notable adaptations[edit]


Anime series[edit]


Musical Theatre[edit]

  • 2021: No Longer Human stage musical adaptation with music by Frank Wildhorn, English lyrics by Tracy Miller and Carly Robyn Green, orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg, directed and choreographed by Ney Hasegawa and Xu Chongye, written by Ya Wen and Mingzhu Zhang, and produced by Ranspace. World premiere took place in December 2021 at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. [16]


  1. ^ Dazai, Osamu (1948). No Longer Human. Translated by Keene, Donald. Norfolk, Connecticut: New Directions Publishing.
  2. ^ a b Dazai, Osamu (2023). A Shameful Life. Translated by Gibeau, Mark. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press.
  3. ^ The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press. 2005. p. 660.
  4. ^ "Takeshi Obata Illustrates Cover for Best-Selling Japanese Novel". ComiPress. August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  5. ^ a b "没後70年、作家・太宰治を生んだ「三つの空白期」". Yomiuri Shimbun (in Japanese). 6 June 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  6. ^ Eugene Thacker. "The Disqualified Life of Ozamu Dazai." The Japan Times (26 March 2016).
  7. ^ "Osamu Dazai". Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  8. ^ Bradbury, William (25 October 2014). "No Longer Human". The Japan Times. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  9. ^ Yegulalp, Serdar. "Book Reviews: No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai)". Genji Press. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Classe, Olive (2000). Encyclopedia of Literary Translation Into English: A-L. Taylor & Francis. p. 346. ISBN 9781884964367.
  12. ^ Flanagan, Damian (November 10, 2018). "A journey to hell with Osamu Dazai, Japan's ultimate bad boy novelist". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on November 10, 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  13. ^ "NO LONGER HUMAN (9784805317426)". The Japan Times. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  14. ^ 小栗旬、太宰治役で減量 蜷川実花監督と「人間失格」誕生秘話映画化. (in Japanese). December 3, 2018. Archived from the original on December 3, 2018. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  15. ^ "No Longer Human". Vertical, Inc. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  16. ^ "Wildhorn, Miller & Green's NO LONGER HUMAN to Make World Premiere in Shanghai". BroadwayWorld. December 9, 2021. Retrieved November 30, 2023.