Self Portraits: Tales from the Life of Japan's Great Decadent Romantic

Osamu Dazai, Author, Pocknell Shaw, Editor, Ralph McCarthy, Translator Kodansha America $18.95 (230p) ISBN 978-0-87011-779-4
The bad boy of Japanese letters offers 20 heavily autobiographical stories, primarily about the scandals that colored his abbreviated life. Born in 1909 to a wealthy family, the pseudonymous author, since ``earliest childhood,'' was filled with ``a horrible sense of dread at having such unmerited fortune.'' Convinced that he was ``a child of bad karma and would die accordingly,'' he lived as a profligate, cajoling a monthly allowance from his family, indulging in a series of affairs that ended with double suicide attempts (which proved fatal to his partners), becoming addicted to morphine, drinking to excess--and all the while writing to critical acclaim. What makes Dazai's work so noteworthy is its confessional quality, particularly startling to his audience when he began publishing in 1933. His daring compensates for the defects here: like so many confessional writers, the author prides himself on his ability to wallow in remorse.``To deceive others is to live in hell,'' he states, apparently feeling entitled to make this choice. Dazai and a lover killed themselves in 1948. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 978-4-7700-1689-8
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