The Flowers of Buffoonery
For the first time in English, Osamu Dazai’s hilariously comic and deeply moving prequel to No Longer Human
The Flowers of Buffoonery opens in a seaside sanitarium where Yozo Oba—the narrator of No Longer Human at a younger age—is being kept after a failed suicide attempt. While he is convalescing, his friends and family visit him, and other patients and nurses drift in and out of his room. Against this dispiriting backdrop, everyone tries to maintain a lighthearted, even clownish atmosphere: playing cards, smoking cigarettes, vying for attention, cracking jokes, and trying to make each other laugh.
While No Longer Human delves into the darkest corners of human consciousness, The Flowers of Buffoonery pokes fun at these same emotions: the follies and hardships of youth, of love, and of self-hatred and depression. A glimpse into the lives of a group of outsiders in prewar Japan, The Flowers of Buffoonery is a darkly humorous and fresh addition to Osamu Dazai’s masterful and intoxicating oeuvre.
Osamu Dazai was born in 1909 into a powerful landowning family of northern Japan. A brilliant student, he entered the French department of Tokyo University in 1930, but later boasted that in the five years before he left without a degree, he had never attended a lecture. Dazai was famous for confronting head-on the social and moral crises of postwar Japan before he committed suicide by throwing himself into Tokyo’s Tamagawa Aqueduct. His body was found on what would have been his 39th birthday.
Sam Bett is a fiction writer and Japanese translator whose credits include Star by Yukio Mishima. Working with David Boyd, he co-translated the Mieko Kawakami novels Heaven, shortlisted for the International Booker Prize; All the Lovers in the Night, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; and Breasts and Eggs.