Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human: An Open Letter to the Unhappy of the World

Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human

The society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, so says the author of this book, or his fictional alter ego. The society, in short, is you judging me, and vice versa. The protagonist of No Longer Human relates that he has always felt incapable of facing the world, that fear and lack of character were superior causes. His maxim was to please others, his greatest burden was the feeling of guilt; to be sociable on the outside and unapproachable on the inside.

There are people like that, tormented to the core, since they have reason, and even before, unable to feel anything other than sadness, pity, or horror, except for happiness in very small, scarce doses, which end up making them even more unhappy than they already were. This kind of people usually end up badly, they are excessively destructive, both for themselves and for those around them, as long as the latter truly care about them.

Relating what was said in the first paragraph to what I wrote about fake and genuine laughter, about fake laughter and the ease of studying everything, we think about the luck that the troubled Osamu Dazai had not to live in these times, because they would have embittered his painful existence even more, whose ending was even sadder than that of his novels (he committed suicide by repeating the same method that failed the first time, something that doesn’t seem very intelligent, because he carried out the plan with a woman on both occasions, causing the first one to die while he was only injured… according to the novel).

No Longer Human, the need for incomprehension and finding oneself

His character, of whom Dazai speaks in No Longer Human, comments that he lives by buffoonery, a way to satisfy his desires to please others. Something that connects again with the article about fake laughter mentioned before: the need to maintain a socially established role to feel comfortable among people. In any case, the most interesting thing for me is the approach he makes about humanity’s need to twist words to say things different from what they want to mean, to never be clear and confuse people. In short, to complicate personal relationships, to deceive without sense, but not to lie. Strange, yet very common. At least this way misunderstandings would cease to exist.

Defined as a stark but powerful novel of modern Japan focuses on one unhappy young symbol of a dejected generation by Booklist, there is a Japanese animated film made in 2009 called No Longer Human. The criticism of hypocrisy of society, the one that is so concerned with keeping up appearances, maintaining good relations with people they don’t like, speaking without listening, even out of fear of remaining silent together. If we were sincere, we would probably hate each other more, at least more than we hate each other now, if it’s possible, but we would also understand each other better, everything would be easier. Therefore, if I had known the protagonist of the novel and had the opportunity to give him advice that would avoid his downfall, that advice would be for him to try to relax, in general. He wouldn’t listen to me, because, as I said, that way of being and thinking is in his own nature, it’s irreparable, in my opinion after reading the book. But hey, at least let one thing be clear to him:

No one is worthy of being human, although some are more susceptible than others.

“By that time, I was starting to have a slight idea of what it was all about. I mean, a struggle between individuals. And a struggle where winning is everything. Human beings don’t obey anyone. Even slaves carry out their petty revenge on each other. Human beings cannot relate beyond the rivalry between winning and losing. Although they attach grandiose names to their efforts, in the end the goal is purely individual and, once achieved, only the individual remains. The incomprehensibility of society is that of the individual. And the ocean is not society, but the individuals who compose it. And I, who lived in fear of the ocean called ‘society’, managed to free myself from that fear.”

– Osamu Dazai. No Longer Human. New Directions Publishing. 9780811204811

I read and rated No Longer Human ★★★★ on July 2, 2015.

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