This book of Dazai was written in the spring and early summer of 1945. The story opens up with the narrator,Dazai himself, reading the story of the folktales to his children when the air raid is happening and they are in the confines of the bomb shelter.
There are four stories in this book of fairy tales; The Stolen Wen, Urashima-san, Click-Clack Mountain and The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue, in which Dazai attacks and analyzes the characters, the plot and the relevance of the story and the impact of it in children during his time. He compulsively reflects and projects his real-life concerns in the book and persistently provides commentaries on the events of the stories, ultimately retells the stories and add more depth to the characters and the plot. The theme that is uniform across Dazai’s novels–the apathetic acceptance of loneliness (which is found heavily in No Longer Human) is also established in this book; it is a classic Dazai theme where the main character does not find sustenance with his surroundings thus resigned to live his/her life in loneliness and “desirelessness”. An example would be the princess in Urashima-san, who owns leagues and leagues of land but is content on smiling at people and proceeds to staying in her chambers not thinking of anything and not talking to anybody; as well as the man in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue who “spends the rest of the day in his desk, wriggling on his cushion or nodding off or jerking awake until dinnertime and hits the sack thereafter”. An additional theme that is also present, is the appearance of utopia, places of reprieve where the characters find themselves free to do what they please (the story of Urashima-san when he finds the Dragon Palace), a place you can find warmth that you cannot have at home (the Sparrows Inn in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue). None of this is permanent, of course, but the characters are transformed and have found peace in themselves when they leave the utopia.
This is my 4th story of Dazai and so far, it doesn’t disappointment. His place in the Japanese literature is well deserved. Highly recommended!
“…those scenes on the beach had an aura of sadness about them that struck chords somewhere deep within me, filling my chest with pain.”
“It’s a marvelous thing, the ocean. For some reason when two people sit together looking out at it, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent. You never get tired of watching it. And no matter how rough the waves get, you’ve never bothered by the noise the water makes or by the commotion of the surface–it never seem too loud, or too wild.”
“And it seemed to me that even if you weren’t actively letting your emotions ride its surface, the ocean will tell you on giving you something, teaching you some sort of lesson.”
“I guess when you’re out of the ocean and you see the piers way off in the distance, shrouded in mist, you understand this very clearly: No matter where you are, you’re always a bit on your own, always an outsider.”
“I get the feeling that in towns near the sea the rain falls in a more hushed, lonely way than in other places. Perhaps the ocean absorbs the sound?”
book mails are the best!
i got this book this afternoon and i couldn’t be happier. i have been a fan of osamu dazai since i have seen the anime aoi bungaku. i didn’t want to finish it as i’ve decided to get the books.
i was in the japanese bookstagram community for the past few weeks and i absolutely fell in love with the japanese covers of books – their minimalistic approach to it.
this book is one of my most anticipated reads this 2016. i’ve read no longer human, his controversial work but i’ve read in a few articles that the setting sun is the highlight of his writing career. i am one for doom and gloom books and osamu dazai is just the man.
osamu dazai committed suicide after “no longer human” was published. that book was believed to be his autobiography. speculations arise when some of the aspects in the books actually reflected his life. although, we may not know that.
his books are depressing. i felt my mood gradually dampen as i was reading that book and i wanted to see if this one lived up to the masterpiece that everyone is talking about.
i like to read challenging books, books that will derange my thoughts.
i’ll try to keep sane. 😀