Blue Bamboo: Tales by Dazai Osamu
Scholars and fans often divide the career of Dazai Osamu (1909–1948) into three periods—early, middle, and late. The early and late periods tend to get all the attention, but in fact Dazai was at his very best in the middle period, which corresponds roughly to the years of the Pacific War. All the stories in this collection, with the exception of the early "Romanesque," were written during that time.
The majority of these translations were first published by Kodansha International in 1993, as Blue Bamboo: Tales of Fantasy and Romance, which has been out of print for decades now. The prior translations have been massively revised by the translator, and new material added to make this a book that reveals an intelligent and humorous Dazai seldom encountered in existing English translations.
- On Love and Beauty
- The Chrysanthemum Spirit
- The Mermaid and the Samurai
- Blue Bamboo
- Alt Heidelberg
- Lanterns of Romance
- ...a quaint but pleasant divergence from the narrative and themes that fans of Dazai will be familiar with. ...[reader's will] be pleasantly surprised by the whimsical tone and light-hearted humour of the stories contained. [...] ...many of them contain Dazai's idiosyncrasies and give insights into his own life. [...] There is nothing earth-shatteringly insightful here, but there is plenty of reticent philosophy and gentle adventure that can be enjoyed by all.
—Chris Corker, Japan Society of the UK
- When I read The Setting Sun and Dazai's other stories, the impression I was left with was one of wasted lives, squalor and depression. This collection is much lighter, comical and humorous, but just as enjoyable. Dazai shows a deft touch in his humour, and McCarthy has done a good job in bringing it across into English. [...] Entertaining stories, a good translation and a brief introduction with information about the background of the stories make this a book well worth reading. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in J-Lit (or in tall tales!). Give it a go—I doubt you'll be disappointed :)
—Tony Malone, Tony's Reading List
- Pages: 206 + xii
- Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
- ISBN: 978-4-902075-58-8
- Kurodahan Press Book No. FG-JP0040L
- List Price: US$11.00
- Cover: 'Bamboo and chrysanthemum under the moon' by Hara Zaichū (1750–1837); Ota Collection, Fukuoka Art Museum
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(太宰 治; 1909–1948)
One of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan, Dazai is probably most famous for his ironic and gloomy wit. His best-known work, The Setting Sun (Shayō, 斜陽) was published in 1947, brilliantly depicting the decline of the Japanese nobility after World War II. Based on the diary of lover Shizuko Ōta (太田静子), who mothered his daughter Haruko (治子) in 1947, it made Dazai a nationwide celebrity.
In spite of the "gloom and doom" atmosphere always cited in reviews of The Setting Sun and the later No Longer Human (Ningen Shikkaku, 人間失格, 1948), though, Dazai's cutting wit and rich humor are evident in the entire body of his work. His literature depicts the human condition in painfully blunt and realistic terms, but, like life itself, is often accompanied by a smile.
Ralph McCarthy lives in Southern California. He has translated two previous collections of Dazai stories, Self Portraits and Otogizōshi, as well as a number of novels by Ryu Murakami, including In the Miso Soup and Popular Hits of the Showa Era. His most recent translation is Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama.