A journey to hell with Osamu Dazai, Japan’s ultimate bad boy novelist. Damian Flanagan dives into the new translation by Mark Gibeau of this classic by Osamu Dazai, A Shameful Life: Ningen Shikkaku.
"Dazai is the ultimate bad boy of Japanese literature and “Ningen Shikkaku” is his supreme masterpiece, a novel that still shocks today with its brutal honesty and unflinching, strangely thrilling pessimism. Nothing remotely like it had been seen in Japanese literature before.
To gain a sense of its impact, we should think perhaps of the words of Yukio Mishima when he had previously discovered other similarly morally liberating art works by Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde: “Evil had been unleashed … moralizing was nowhere to be seen.”
As it happens, Mishima loathed Dazai, undoubtedly because he owed him so much in influence. Once, he followed Dazai to a party, styling himself as Dazai’s assassin, and told him to his face, “I hate your literature.” Dazai coolly looked him up and down and replied, “And yet you are here.”"
Big thanks to Damian Flanagan for his expertise in reviewing A Shameful Life, and as always a big thank you The Japan Times for covering it. The book is available now!