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Why did Mark Gibeau choose to translate Osamu Dazai's "Ningen Shikkaku" as "A Shameful Life"?

Updated: Apr 24

Translator Mark Gibeau and publisher Peter Goodman discuss Mark’s translation of Osamu Dazai’s novel Ningen Shikkaku, which Stone Bridge published as A Shameful Life. Why is this mid-20th-century Japanese author's portrait of an alienated (and alienating) personality still so attractive to contemporary audiences, especially teens and young adults?

Topics include:

  • Teaching Japanese in Australia

  • The original Donald Keene translation and why Mark decided to translate it again

  • How many other translations of this work are there, and are there more to come?

  • Why isn’t Mark’s translation called No Longer Human like the other editions?

  • Mark's process of translation

  • The importance of being a sensitive reader

  • What is Dazai's lasting appeal to younger readers?

  • What is translation and what is the hardest part about it (hint: it's not the language per se).

  • Challenges of translating Japanese, a high-context language

  • AI and future implications for translating and translators. Are jobs at risk?

Tony's Reading List recently compared  Mark Gibeau’s translation of Ningen Shikkaku  to Donald Keene's:

Mark Gibeau is Senior Lecturer, School of Culture, History & Language, at Australian National University in Canberra.

Peter Goodman is publisher of Stone Bridge Press in Berkeley, California, which for over thirty years has specialized in books on Asia, especially Japan and China. 

For a complete list of Stone Bridge Press books, visit



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