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Knowing Osamu Dazai

Tracing the roots of Osamu Dazai, the great writer

who described the joy of living as well as the beauty of decadence

Literary styles

Dazai employed different literary styles and his works included serious works of literature as well as humorous ones full of wit. For example, Joseito (A Girl Student) is written in the first person as a narrative told by a female student. In Onna no Ketto (Women’s Duel), the author himself appears unexpectedly in that novel. In Doke no Hana (A Clown Star), Dazai repetitively uses similar expressions in order to confound the imagination of readers. Protagonists speak directly to readers in his novels written in the first person. The literary styles of Dazai’s early works are expressions of his anxiety about life.
Dazai, who saw the gap between the haves and have-nots with his own eyes while growing up in the Tsushima family, was critical of the strong and sympathetic toward the weak. Due to his guilt over the girl who died in his failed attempt to commit a double suicide, he referred to the Bible in many of his works written immediately after the incident. However, Dazai’s life stabilized after his marriage, enabling him to write encouraging stories of hope, such as Fugaku Hyakkei (Changing Scenery of Mt. Fuji) and Hashire Merosu (Meros, Run!). Works written during the Second World War include Otogizoshi (Fairy Tales) in which a father tells old fairy tales to his child while dreaming of different stories. Diaries and old tales take on striking aspects when told by Dazai. These skills in manipulating words are also the essential appeal of Dazai’s literary works. During the postwar years of rapid change, he wrote Kahei (Money) in which the protagonist is a one-hundred-yen bill, in order to express the essence of human nature and the joy of living. In Shayo (The Setting Sun) and Ningen Shikkaku (No Longer Human), he expressed his outlook on human existence that affirms the beauty of decadence. Many people continue to read these excellent works of literature.

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