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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Books Briefing: Osamu Dazai

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Osamu Dazai’s 75-year-old novel of alienation

A shadowy figure walks through an alley
Matt Black / Magnum

That is an version of the remodeled Books Briefing, our editors’ weekly information to the most productive in books. Join it right here.

The lonely, alienated younger male narrator is a commonplace determine in literature throughout time and position. Readers come across him within the unnamed, frenzied protagonist who stalks round Christiania in Knut Hamsun’s Starvation; in Leopold Bloom as he wanders James Joyce’s Dublin in Ulysses; and in J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, who ditches his boarding college for New York Town. In Osamu Dazai’s 1948 cult-classic novel, No Longer Human, which turns 75 this yr, the protagonist Yozo Oba would possibly carry a few of these characters to thoughts as he whiles away his days in Nineteen Thirties Tokyo. Like a few of these different narrators, he’s adrift on the planet, espousing a “pessimistic view of social humanity,” my colleague Jane Yong Kim wrote this week.

First, listed here are 3 new tales from The Atlantic’s Books phase:

Yozo struggles with conventions, dismisses the individuals who display him kindness, and relentlessly criticizes himself. The occasions in his lifestyles mimic main moments in Dazai’s personal, and the creator’s dying by way of suicide in a while earlier than No Longer Human’s newsletter has contributed to its fantasy. However in the end, it’s the ebook’s conversational tone—the singularity of that self-deprecating voice—that has made its recognition, and stored it related nowadays.

If truth be told, the stress between what the lonely narrator says he needs and what he if truth be told wants feels deeply fresh. Reacting to the arena with bemusement and grievance calls for simplest wit and remark; admitting a real need calls for vulnerability—chances are you’ll no longer get what you’ve requested for. Yozo can’t carry himself to mention that he wishes other folks, even supposing he obviously depends upon buddies to maintain him or assist him get by way of in Tokyo. In that method, Kim writes, Dazai’s works serve as no longer simply as stories of estrangement, however as “fashionable portraits of human connection.”


A photo-illustration shows two portraits of the novelist Osamu Dazai against an abstract pastel background
Representation by way of The Atlantic

The Cult Vintage That Captures the Pressure of Social Alienation


What to Learn

I Stay My Exoskeletons to Myself, by way of Marisa Crane

In Crane’s imaginative debut, prisons were abolished, however punishment hasn’t, nor has surveillance. The authoritarian executive offers other people convicted of crimes a 2nd, literal shadow, and extra in the event that they reoffend. Those electorate have restricted rights and sources, and endure quite a lot of social stigma. When the narrator Kris’s spouse dies giving delivery to their kid, the infant is penalized for inadvertently killing her mom. Kris, now each a widow and a brand new mother, has a 2nd shadow too, so she and her daughter each change into pariahs … Her bond together with her kid grows: They learn how to include their shadows as a part of their lives, giving them names and taking part in with them … Kris slowly emerges from her morass of sorrow and builds connections with new buddies and neighbors, intent on giving her daughter hope, gumption, and a suite of people that gained’t fail her.  — Ilana Masad

From our listing: What to learn when you wish to have to reimagine circle of relatives


Out Subsequent Week

📚 All-Evening Pharmacy, by way of Ruth Madievsky


Your Weekend Learn
Paris, France: Four Black men stand outside La Rose Rouge, December 4, 1948.
Bettmann / Getty

When Making Artwork Approach Leaving the USA

Tamara J. Walker describes the pillars of diasporic nightlife that earned portions of Nineteen Twenties Paris the nickname “French Harlem,” the place “consumers may just dance to Martinican biguines, which derived from the folks songs of the enslaved, Senegalese orchestra tunes that integrated components of Cuban track that traveled to African airlines and migrated to France, or even some African American jazz” … With each and every tale, Past the Shores builds a canon of Black ingenious expression that crosses each temporal and geographic limitations.


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