Schoolgirl

      Osamu Dazai
Schoolgirl

'Schoolgirl' is the novella that first established Dazai as a member of Japan's literary elite. Essentially the start of Dazai's career, the 1933 work gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language, and how it illuminated the prevalent social structures of a lost time.

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    Otogizōshi: The Fairy Tale Book of Dazai Osamu

      Osamu Dazai
Otogizōshi: The Fairy Tale Book of Dazai Osamu

Dazai Osamu wrote The Fairy Tale Book (Otogizōshi) in the last months of the Pacific War. The traditional tales upon which Dazai's retellings are based are well known to every Japanese schoolchild, but this is no children's book. In Dazai's hands such stock characters as the kindhearted Oji-san to Oba-san ("Grandmother and Grandfather"), the mischievous tanuki badger, the fearsome Oni ogres, the greedy old man, the "tongue-cut" sparrow, and of course Urashima Taro (the Japanese Rip van Winkle) become complex individuals facing difficult and nuanced moral dilemmas. The resulting stories are thought-provoking, slyly subversive, and often hilarious.

In spite of the "gloom and doom" atmosphere always cited in reviews of The Setting Sun and the later No Longer Human, 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.

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    Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy

      Osamu Dazai
Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy

Blue Bamboo is a collection of seven short stories by one of Japan's preeminent postwar writers and prose stylists, Osamu Dazai. Not the typical romantic fantasies so often seen in Japanese writing, filled with water sprites and vengeful ghosts, these stories are a mixture of fantastic allegory, slightly skewed fables, and affecting romantic tales. Revealing the wide range of Dazai's imaginative powers, they also give a glimpse of his humane and idealistic side.

From the title story, about an impoverished, henpecked scholar who is transformed by the love of a voluptuous bird, to "The Chrysanthemum Spirit," about a passionate gardener who meets a brother and sister with extraordinary powers, Dazai creates a world of fantasy and romance that is infused with his own psychological concerns. Many readers may recall the poignancy of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince or Han Christian Andersen.

The collection is capped by two delightful stories-within-a-story, in which the assorted members of a quirky family compose alternate episodes of a slightly gothic romance with hints of Poe and Saki (in "On Love and Beauty") and a wildly elaborate retelling of Rapunzel that is engaging, horrifying, and touching by turns (in "Lanterns of Romance").

All in all, these warm, inventive, and life-affirming stories will strike a deep, satisfying chord in many readers.

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    Crackling Mountain and Other Stories

      Osamu Dazai
Crackling Mountain and Other Stories

Features 11 outstanding works by Osamu Dazai, widely regarded as one of 20th century Japan's most gifted writers and a master teller of tales. Dazai experimented with a wide variety of short story styles and brought to each a sophisticated sense of humor, a broad empathy for the human condition, and a tremendous literary talent. This book showcases a range of his styles from the poignant childhood recollections of "Memories", to the samurai buffoonery of "A Poor Man's Got His Pride", to reworked folk classics such as the title story. By turns hilarious, ironic, introspective, mystical and sarcastic, the eleven stories present the most fully rounded portrait available of a tragic, multifaceted genius of modern Japanese letters.

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