(W) Osamu Dazai (T) Donald Keene
This powerful novel of a nation in social and moral crisis in the early postwar years probes the transition from a feudal Japan to an industrial society. The influence of this book, often considered Dazai’s masterpiece, made the term ‘people of the setting sun’ — the declining aristocracy — a permanent part of the Japanese language. Dazai’s heroine, Kazuko, the strong-willed young aristocrat who deliberately abandons her class, stands as a symbol of the anomie that pervades so much of the modern world.
The distinguished translator Donald Keene has said of the author’s work: ‘His world…suggest Chekhov or possibly postwar France…but there is a Japanese sensibility in the choice and presentation of the material. A Dazai novel is at once immediately intelligible in Western terms and quite unlike any Western book.’