November 2020 Book Club Report: Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human

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November Translated Literature Book Club Meeting

On the last Saturday of November, we held our fourth book club meeting at The Moon Cafe to discuss the late Japanese writer Osamu Dazai’s 1948 novel No Longer Human, the second bestselling novel ever in Japan.

Seated cosily around a small table with our drinks on the upper floor of the cafe, the five of us had very deep conversations about various themes that the novel covers. 

We felt that No Longer Human probably isn’t the most appropriate book to read when we are feeling especially downcast, as it might lead some readers on a further downward spiral, emotionally.

Widely known to have been written largely based on the author’s personal experiences, the almost-autobiographical novel digs into very existential question of what it means to be a human being, complete with sin, guilt, trauma, distrust, brokenness, shame, un-belonging – regardless of a person’s privileges or the lack of.

No Longer Human was published in 1948, but Osamu Dazai’s stories about the human struggle remains as relevant as ever, to Japanese and non-Japanese readers. In fact, the brevity of the stories with little mention of any historical events in Japan or around the world make it a timeless read.

Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • Why is Yozo so depressed?

  • What does it mean to be a human being?

  • What does it mean to be disqualified from being human?

  • Does Yozo have a flawed definition of being human?

  • How did his childhood trauma and being born in a relatively affluent household affect adult life?

  • Why do you think this novel is one of the bestselling novels in Japan?

  • What is the relationship between shame and vulnerability?

  • What is culture? Is there a culture so toxic that it requires change?

December Book Club Selection 

On the last Saturday of December, our last book club meeting of the year, we’ll be reading Korean writer Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold, a collection of ten short stories translated by Janet Hong and published in 2019.

If you’d like to join us in December, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more details about our December meeting!

*Harriett Press’s Translated Literature Book Club is a monthly book club that meets to exchange thoughts on a translated book selected for the month. Anyone is welcome to join us!⁠ Find out more about book club meetings by following us on Facebook and Instagram!  


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