Original Title: 斜陽 (Shayō)
Author: Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, Dazai Osamu)
Translator: Donald Keene
Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature
This I want to believe implicitly: Man was born for love and revolution.
I very much enjoined No Longer Human. I liked its quiet melancholy and its deep, depressing theme. Whether or not I cared for the narrator is dubious, but I thought it was insightful and I relished it thoroughly. To completely flip the page over and end up here is a bit of a shock.
The biggest problem with The Setting Sun is that it’s boring, and also that it’s melodramatic. It’s full of symbolism relating to the post-war era of Japan following World War II, and if the book related to the country as a whole, I could get down with that. Instead, Dazai wrote about a specific aristocratic family. This means that the attention is centered on them. This means that I have to care for them and direct my sympathy towards them, and I can not.
If I felt anything at all, it was squashed by Kazuko. How the hell am I supposed to feel bad for her when she writes to a man, knowing that he has a wife and family, asking to become his mistress and to have his child? Ignorance is one thing, but she knows. I realize that times were different then, and that many men had mistresses and their wives even knew about it, but that doesn’t disregard how much it sickens me.
Naoji has told me that many people say you are repulsive, and that you are hated and often attacked. Such stories only make me love you all the more. I am sure, considering who you are, that you must have all kinds of amies, but now you will gradually come to love only me. I can’t help thinking that.
Kazuko is whiny. She’s whiny and self-absorbed and just plain annoying.
In regards to the writing, Dazai has this habit of stating an event, and then going back and describing what happened. I hate this tactic, because it’s anti-climatic – it’s almost lazy. Where’s the build-up and tension? As a whole as well, parts are extremely plain, some are purple enough to induce vomiting, and some just don’t make sense. (Why are the words ‘breast’ and ‘breasts’ used so often? Is it intended to be sexual or could he not think of a proper synonym?)
This book is important to Japan because it depicts its transition into a more industrial society. It’s not that I don’t understand that, or that I’m overlooking it – I simply didn’t enjoy this book.