Episode 11: The I-Novel, Osamu Dazai, and No Longer Human

“Asakusa Park Casino Follies” by Sumio Kawakami, circa 1930 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Check out Episode 11 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the I-Novel—the highest form of literature in Japan in the 1910s and 20s.

It’s a genre one American scholar describes as “perhaps the most striking feature of modern Japanese literature.”

And it’s a genre Haruki Murakami claims to have an allergy to.

We’ll also be looking at the life and work of Osamu Dazai and asking, “What does it take to get disqualified as a human being?”

Content warning: This episode addresses addiction, rape, suicide, and misogyny.

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No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald Keene

More by Dazai:

More to read:

An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Find Out More

A review of An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura

An interview with Sayaka Murata

Plans for a secondary-school literature class on the I-Novel

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

Fowler, Edward. The Rhetoric of Confession: Shishōsetsu in Early Twentieth-Century Japanese Fiction, U of CA, 1992. 

Hijiya-Kirschnereit. Rituals of Self-Revelation: Shishōsetsu as Literary Genre and Socio-Cultural Phenomenon. Harvard, 1996.

Keene, Donald. “Dazai Osamu and the Burai-Ha” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

–. “The I-Novel” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Lyons, Phyllis I. “‘Art Is Me’: Dazai Osamu’s Narrative Voice as a Permeable Self” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1981.
Murakami Haruki. “Introduction” in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, ed. Jay Rubin, Penguin, 2020.

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