Rating: 4 stars
Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge
This collection of short stories was my first encounter with Dazai Osamu. The stories have a dark undercurrent, and a black humour sits across them. I laughed out loud a few times. Dazai has an interesting writing style and a wry turn of phrase, highlighting the ridiculous in a situation. In a few of the stories, he reminded me of J D Salinger, particularly the stories about the Irie family, who are like a Japanese version of Salinger’s Glass family. The stories are self-referential, with characters reappearing and meeting each other across different tales, and focus on the frustrations of life in rule-bound Japanese society. Many of the main characters are disaffected, some of them are downright unpleasant, all of them are misfits. They try to break free of the very Japanese concept of filial piety (honouring your parents no matter what) and go their own, sometimes apathetic, sometimes debauched way. I don’t know if I enjoyed everything in the book, but I definitely appreciated the style, which is quite different to that of his contemporaries, Ryūnosuke, Mishima and Sōseki. Dazai seems very modern, as though he were living now, rather than 70 years ago. I will try out one of his novels.