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Unformatted text preview: , and even the so-called social realism of
the earlier proletarian writers.
Among the most dramatic of the authors to emerge to prominence in
the Occupation period were those loosely referred to as burai-ha or “dissolutes.” Profoundly influenced by the doubts, uncertainties, and sense
of crisis that had permeated their formative years as writers before and
during the war, the burai-ha, whose most famous representative was
Dazai Osamu (1909–48), viewed the world as a place of existential chaos,
distorted values, and universal hypocrisy and tried to find humanity in it
even as they drowned their anxieties in lives of debauchery and dissoluteness. Claiming a debt to Camus and Sartre, the burai-ha writers rose
meteorically for a brief period in postwar letters and left a legacy of
romantic self-destructiveness that continues to hold a powerful attraction
for the Japanese.
Dazai Osamu was born in 1909 into a wealthy landowning family in
northern Japan and began what proved to be an exceptionally prolific
writing career in the early 1930s. A chronically unstable person, Dazai
had already attempted suicide four times before the postwar period, including one effort with a bar maid in which she died and he survived.
His fifth attempt, in 1948, a suicide pact by drowning with his mistress
at the time, was successful and brought his life to a pathetic end at the
age of thirty-nine.
Like the other burai-ha writers, Dazai loudly disparaged the narrow
egoism, especially of the prewar naturalist school, that constituted the
main theme of the persistent Japanese I-novel tradition. Yet Dazai himself
relied overwhelmingly on his own life experience for subject material in
his writing—many of his stories are diary-like, autobiographical accounts
—and may even be regarded as the last great I-novelist.4 The difference,
as Dazai would contend, was that, whereas the I-novelists of the naturalist
school were unremittingly self-centered, the aberrant behavior he por- Culture in the Present A...
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- Spring '13