We human beings are human beasts, and that is why, in animal fashion, we fear death. What is called élan vital is nothing more than another name for brute strength. Like everyone else, I too am a human beast. But when I note that I have lost all interest in food and sex, I realize that I am gradually losing my animal vitality. I am living in a sick world of nerves that has become as transparent as ice. Last night, when I talked to a certain prostitute about her wages (!), I felt profoundly the pathos of human beings like ourselves who ‘go on living in the only way they can go on living.
- Excerpt from Akutagawa’s suicide note found in Donald Keene’s Dawn to the West pg. 586
In July of , Akutagawa Ryunosuke committed suicide, and this is said to have had a tremendous affect on [Dazai], who idolized the great write and whose behavior subsequently underwent radical changes. He began to neglect his studies, devoting himself instead to writing and making use of his princely allowance to dress foppishly and to hire the services of geisha at expensive restaurants in Aomori and Asamushi Hot Springs.
- Exerpt from Osamu Dazai: Self Portraits Introduction. The introduction was written by Ralph. F. McCarthy
Dazai idolized Akutagawa Ryuunosuke and was shaken by his suicide. Though he had been a diligent student before, he began to neglect his college studies, and made his own first suicide attempt before his final exams.
What is something you want to be asked or want to share about BSD?
Everything related to the authors and their works I readily post and get asked about a lot, so I don’t think there really is anything that comes to mind. Whenever I read something or find out a new fact I usually post it right away. But there is one thing I don’t think I’ve ever really mentioned that I just can’t let go:
Atsushi has this adorable black streak in his hair in the manga, but the anime NEVER animates it into the episodes! It’s there in the anime proportional posters and art:
But NONE in the actual episodes:
I mean, it actually is important and I’m not just worrying about this because it’s cute and I want to see more of Atsushi’s black streak (though that is part of it). There is a striking contrast between Atsushi’s hair and Akutagawa’s:
Atsushi’s is white with a hint of black, sort of like how he is mostly good, but there is part of his dark past he can’t seem to let go of. Akutagawa’s hair is black with dramatic white tips, kind of like how he lives very much in the dark world of the Mafia but his motives and goal of making Dazai proud and giving his sister a better life (at least better than dying of starvation in the slums) is admirable. The black/white contrast is evident in their clothes and personalities as well, but for me the hair was a piece of all that and I was sad to see that it wasn’t included in the anime.
The real life authors were compared a bit as well. Here’s a quote from the Afterword of The Moon Over the Mountain and Other Stories:
Nakajima Atsushi’s manner of using Chinese sources… is mostly faithful to the classical source texts, keeping changes to a minimum. Nakajima’s treatment of confucius and his disciples in ‘The Disciple’ (1943), for example, weaves several sources together to create a dynamic story of human interaction, yet he does not easily take liberties with the situations, ideas, or characterizations…. It is important to note that this ‘respect for the classical sources’ is a characteristic that distinguishes Nakajima as a writer from Akutagawa, although some critics have compared Nakajima to Akutagawa on the basis of the two writers’ predilection for using classical source texts. Akutagawa generally reinterprets the events and characters from a modern skeptical perspective, probing the hidden motives and darker emotions of human beings. By contrast, Nakajima focuses on larger, more fundamental issues of human existence - how one should find oneself, how one should live in an unjust world.
It’s interesting that the BSD creators would pair up an author like Atsushi, who was only publishing for one short year and only left a novel and a handful of short stories behind before dying young, and Akutagawa (the Father of the Japanese Short Story) who left behind many, many more stories and books when compared to Atsushi. Akutagawa had a far wider influence and history left behind, but Atsushi left behind a significant amount especially when you consider how short of a time he was actually publishing. Akutagawa was famous enough that the Akutagawa Prize was created in his honor, and Dazai Osamu fought as hard as he could to win the prize and never got it. Atsushi doesn’t have a prize named after him, but the same year he began publishing he was also nominated for the Akutagawa Prize just before his death.
In the case of Nakajima, he was a virtually unknown writer until shortly before he died from asthma at age thirty-three in December of 1942. He had just made his literary debut with the publication of two stories in February of 1942, then published a long work in May, and two collections of stories in the summer of 1942, becoming a candidate for the Akutagawa Prize in September, just before his death. Within a short time after his death, however, his complete works were published, in 1948…. His stories, particularly ‘The Moon over the Mountain,’ have become well established in the Japanese canon by becoming incorporated into high school textbooks… Atsushi Nakajima has a secure place in Japanese literary history.
Really, I just wish that more attention and notice was paid to Nakajima Atsushi-sensei. He was brilliant, intelligent, and talented enough to make a giant impact on the Japanese literary world even thought he only had a year to do it before passing away. Reading his works and collecting quotes and facts from and about him has really made me love him as an author and want to be like him. Plus he was a teacher, and I am a teacher, so that gives me even more reason to want to follow in his footsteps!
It’s weird that I went from the cute streak in BSD Atsushi’s hair, to comparing him and Akutagawa, to admiring him as an author.
These are some of them: ♦ Ward No. 6, Anton Chekhov ♦ In Exile, Anton Chekhov ♦ White Nights, Fyodor Dostoyevsky ♦ The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, Fyodor Dostoyevsky ♦ The Queen of Spades, Alexander Pushkin ♦ The Blizzard, Alexander Pushkin ♦ Diary of a Madman, Nikolai Gogol ♦ The Overcoat, Nikolai Gogol ♦ Twenty-six men and a Girl, Maxim Gorky ♦ The City, Leonid Andreyev ♦ Stepping Stones, Leonid Andreyev ♦ A Country Doctor, Franz Kafka ♦ In the Penal Colony, Franz Kafka ♦ The Black Spider, Jeremias Gotthelf ♦ The Dead, James Joyce ♦ Unexpected Reunion, Johann Peter Hebel ♦ The Oval Portrait, Edgar Allan Poe ♦ The Black Cat, Edgar Allan Poe ♦ The Unknown Masterpiece, Honoré de Balzac
Unreal Cities, Gérard de Nerval ♦ The White Water-Lily, Stéphane Mallarmé ♦ La Morte Amoureuse, Théophile Gautier ♦ La Maison Tellier, Guy de Maupassant ♦ Novels in Three Lines, Félix Fénéon ♦ The Spell, Irène Némirovsky ♦ The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, E.T.A. Hoffmann ♦ The String Quartet, Virginia Woolf ♦ Kew Gardens, Virginia Woolf ♦ Stories and Texts for Nothing: III, Samuel Beckett ♦ Materialism: A Fable, Alfred Döblin
♦ Pack of Lies, Ricarda Huch ♦ The Spider’s Thread, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa ♦ Autumn Mountain, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa ♦ Aghwee the Sky Monster, Kenzaburō Ōe ♦ A Sign in Space, Italo Calvino ♦ The House Made Out of Sugar, Silvina Ocampo ♦ Old Woman and Her Cat, Doris Lessing ♦ Involuntary Incarnation, Clarice Lispector ♦ Axolotl, Julio Cortázar ♦ The Intruders,
♦ Marionette Theatre, Peter Altenberg ♦ Tadeo, Virgilio Piñera ♦ The Garden of Forking Paths, Jorge Luis Borges ♦ Metamusic, Leopoldo Lugones ♦ Featherless Buzzards, Julio Ramón Ribeyro ♦ Last Evenings on Earth, Roberto Bolaño