Japan metropolis

Fresh ink: Osamu Dazai’s two pairs of shorts

All our articles fresh ink The series highlights the English-language premieres of never-before-translated works by renowned Japanese authors.

Osamu Dazai is one of Japan’s literary legends: a tortured, resentful man who drowned in the Tamagawa Canal but inspired generations with his earthy, honest style and heart-rending plot. He wrote many tiny, fragmented stories in newspapers and magazines throughout his life, which have been extensively cataloged and uploaded into the public domain of Aozora Bunko.

“Ocean” and “Summer Story” are both works that point to the deeply buried trauma of their respective narrators. The hero of “Oceans” is obsessed with taking his young daughter to see the sea during World War II, while the heroine of “Summer Story” waxes poetic about her artistic talent, unable to conceal her regret for her own lack of it. Osamu Dazai’s uncanny artistry in weaving together human emotions, great ideas, and resonant imagery is on full display in these fractured stories.


Osamu Dazai

Translated by Eric Margolis

I live in Mitaka, Tokyo, and when bombs fall on our neighbors day after day, the only painful thought I have is not that I might die, but that if the bombs fall on our heads, the children will die without seeing them. Cross the sea. I was born in the Tsugaru Plain in the far north, so I didn’t see the sea until relatively late. I was ten years old that year. The excitement I felt the moment I saw it has become one of my most cherished memories. I also want to take her to see the sea, at least once.

She is five years old now. Eventually, the bomb destroyed Mitaka’s house, but we all escaped harm. My family and I went to Kofu, my wife’s hometown. But soon after, enemy planes also targeted Kofu, and we lost the only house we could go to. The war continues. It became clear that our only option was to bring her to the land of my birth. That will be our grave.

We set off from Kofu to Tsugaru. After driving for three days and three nights, we finally arrived at a quiet station in Akita. We switched to a quieter train and were slightly relieved.

I hurried to find the conductor. “The sea – which side can we see it from?” The railway runs along the coast. The conductor told us we were sitting on the correct side of the car.

“Here comes the ocean! Any minute now. This is the ocean from fairy tales. I can’t stop myself from talking. “Look! The ocean! That’s it, this is the ocean! Ah, right there! It’s so big, isn’t it? Look, you can see it, right there.

Finally, I showed it to my little girl. I took her to see the sea.

“This is a river,” she said quietly. “Mom, a river.”

“A river?” A wave of shock came over him.

“Yes, a river,” my wife muttered, half asleep.

“No, this is not a river. This is the ocean. Look how different it is from a river! How cruel, to mistake the sea for a river!

This memory is one that should be forgotten. At dusk, I looked at the sea alone.

hot story

Osamu Dazai

Translated by Eric Margolis

It’s hot, isn’t it? It’s extremely hot this year.it is really hot. I just think it’s too bad that you took the trouble to come to this little village in such hot weather, but anyway, that’s what I have to say. Please take off your coat. hurry up. It must have been painful walking around outside today. Using a parasol can make things a little more comfortable, but I don’t think you’ll see many men walking around with one.

But we shouldn’t be left with nothing to do. Maybe art? No, that won’t work. I used to be very into art, I had a lot of artist friends and I would put on weird faces and belittle their paintings, yeah, I remember those days. But last fall I decided to try my hand at a few paintings, and even I couldn’t believe how bad they were, so I haven’t said a word about art in conversation since. I also make it a point to praise my friends for anything they do.

This has absolutely nothing to do with art: just yesterday I saw Bunraku at the Shimbashi Theater. I had only seen those dramatic puppets and heard the unforgettable slogans once when I was a student, and it had been nearly ten years. I went with high expectations, hoping that I would be more shocked by the increasing maturity of the masters’ skills, but in my opinion, the performance has not changed at all. This is exactly what I saw ten years ago. So it didn’t live up to my expectations, yeah.But thinking about it more, I began to realize that the truth is, things No The changes are even more shocking and more worthy of my appreciation. It sounds bad that there is no improvement in grades, but on the other hand, there is no regression either. The lack of regression is no small issue.

Training is not the way to become a master. This is simply necessary to maintain your talent. It takes a lot of effort not to regress. Hats off to those artists who don’t take a step back to maintain the level of craftsmanship. Most people experience deterioration as they age. It’s a big lie to say that artistry automatically gets better with age. Without too much training, even the greatest genius can stumble. The first trip is often the last trip.

Staying the same is not an ordinary thing. Let’s be honest, progress or taking a big step is so scary that it’s almost unimaginable for most artists – only divine providence can provide such an opportunity. Even the smallest improvement – but why? Why? All my plans to keep moving forward, from a distance, looked like they were just standing still. Untalented rubber enthusiasts will wonder how it’s possible that artists can’t come up with something better in ten damn years. But that’s disrespectful – they don’t realize how much training and practice it takes to maintain something for ten years, and how arrogant that is. One should experience first hand the hardships of art before one begins to criticize others with any authority.

And the weather is too hot. I wonder what it would be like to try on a padded kimono in such hot weather. Maybe it would be cool to change it up. Anyway, it’s too hot.

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