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No Longer Human

is a Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai. Published after "Run Melos" and "The Setting Sun", "No Longer Human" is considered Dazai's masterpiece and ranks as the second-best selling novel in Japan, behind Kokoro.

This novel, despite it being serialized as a work of fiction in 1948 is narrated in the first person and contains several elements which betray an autobiographical basis, such as suicide—a recurring theme in the author's life. Many also believe the book to have been his will, as he took his own life shortly after the last part of the book (it was serialized) was published, in June 13, 1948. This is not accurate, though, as he had started work on it long before.

"No Longer Human" paints the portrait of the life of , a troubled soul incapable of revealing his true self to others and who is instead forced to uphold a facade of hollow jocularity. The name of the main character, Ōba, is actually taken from one of Dazai's early works, .

Ōba refers to himself throughout the book using the reflexive pronoun , whereas the personal pronoun is used both in the foreword and afterword to the book by the writer, whose name is unclear.

Dazai might have been a sufferer of Complex post-traumatic stress disorder whilst writing the book. Mike Lew has praised the book for expressing male sexual trauma.

Plot outline

The novel is composed of three chapters, or "memorandums", which chronicle the life of Ōba from early childhood to late twenties.

  • First Memorandum - Overcome by an intense feeling of alienation and finding it nearly impossible to socialize with those who surround him, Ōba can't but resort to buffoonery in order to establish interpersonal relationships and engage in a vain attempt to forget the abuse he was subjected to by a female servant during his childhood.
  • Second Memorandum - Ōba becomes increasingly concerned over the potential penetrability of his cheerful facade. He neglects his university studies. Under the influence of a fellow artist he meets at a course, Horiki, he descends into a vicious cycle of drinking, smoking and harlotry, culminating in a one-night stand with a married woman with whom he intends to commit double suicide by drowning. Though he survives, she dies, leaving him with nothing but an excruciating feeling of guilt.
  • Third Memorandum - Several years later, Ōba is expelled from University and falls into a relationship with a young and naïve woman. Ōba stops drinking and things seem to work out well until Horiki shows up, turning Ōba to self-destructivity again. After witnessing his wife being raped, Ōba is once again driven to the verge of committing suicide, but unable to do so, he becomes an alcoholic and a morphine addict. He is eventually interned in a mental institution, and, upon release, moves to an isolated place, concluding the story with numb self-reflection.

References

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