No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Not a lot of people have read No Longer Human and not a lot of people will. It’s not a long book, at least not by its measure, but it reads like a tragically colossal confession of the human condition.
To have read No Longer Human imparts a certain alteration in the way you look at others. Not so much because of the distasteful life of the protagonist. But because of the way Dazai sketches a deeply conflicted character and constructs around him an intrinsic and lingering indifference that drives modernity forward.
It’s intense because he throws you into this bottomless pit where, as you fall, everything that defines your being-ness of being is stripped and snatched away from you. What’s left is a ghostly face and a shadow of a body.
The book consists of several notebooks that give you a detached, revelatory perspective of the protagonist’s life. It’s objective especially because of the vivid descriptions of mental illness; he paints everything in the story including family, women, friendship, love, and the crevices in between with a ghost-like and wounded light.
This only proves the deceptive, chaotic, and desperate condition of human nature and how incomprehensible it is, absurd even, to attempt to embrace it. The story proves how deeply and cerebrally defenseless humans are in the face of what we think makes us human.
Words like “social outcast,” “wounds of a guilty conscience,” and “hellish dread of the realities of life” exhibit the dead weight one carries as a response to the indifference, despair, and adversity of human life.
As I read Camus’s Lyrical and Critical Essays, I’m reminded of the hellish maxims that the protagonist in No Longer Human invents only to contradict this artificial and bottomless façade of society. What makes this even more grotesque is the fact that Osamu Dazai drowned himself with a woman before his thirty-ninth birthday.
“I was frightened even by God. I could not believe in His love, only in His punishment. Faith. That, I felt, was the act of facing the tribunal of justice with one’s head bowed to receive the scourge of God. I could believe in hell, but it was impossible for me to believe in the existence of heaven.”