مرکزی صفحہ No Longer Human

No Longer Human

5.0 / 5.0
آپ کو یہ کتاب کتنی پسند ہے؟
فائل کی کوالٹی کیا ہے؟
کوالٹی کا جائزہ لینے کے لیے کتاب ڈاؤن لوڈ کریں
فائل کی کوالٹی کیا ہے؟
Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, this leading postwar Japanese writer's second novel, tells the poignant and fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas. In consequence, he feels himself "disqualified from being human" (a literal translation of the Japanese title).

Donald Keene, who translated this and Dazai's first novel, The Setting Sun, has said of the author's work: "His world … suggests Chekhov or possibly postwar France, … but there is a Japanese sensibility in the choice and presentation of the material. A Dazai novel is at once immediately intelligible in Western terms and quite unlike any Western book." His writing is in some ways reminiscent of Rimbaud, while he himself has often been called a forerunner of Yukio Mishima.

Cover painting by Noe Nojechowiz, from the collection of John and Barbara Duncan; design by Gertrude Huston

سب زمرہ:
ناشر کتب:
New Directions
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
EPUB, 406 KB
ڈاؤن لوڈ کریں (epub, 406 KB)
Conversion to is in progress
Conversion to is failed

اہم جملے


To post a review, please sign in or sign up
آپ کتاب کا معائنہ کر سکتے ہیں اور اپنے تجربات شیئر کرسکتے ہیں۔ دوسرے قارئین کتابوں کے بارے میں آپ کی رائے میں ہمیشہ دلچسپی رکھیں گے۔ چاہے آپ کو کتاب پسند ہے یا نہیں ، اگر آپ اپنے دیانتدار اور تفصیلی خیالات دیںگے تو لوگوں کو نئی کتابیں ملیںگی جو ان کے لئے صحیح ہیں۔

Dragon’s Song

EPUB, 742 KB
0 / 0


EPUB, 1.39 MB
0 / 0




This translation is dedicated with affection

to Nancy and Edmundo Lassalle


I think that Osamu Dazai would have been gratified by the reviews his novel The Setting Sun received when the English translation was published in the United States. Even though some of the critics were distressed by the picture the book drew of contemporary Japan, they one and all discussed it in the terms reserved for works of importance. There was no trace of the condescension often bestowed on writings emanating from remote parts of the world, and for once nobody thought to use the damning adjective “exquisite” about an unquestionably Japanese product. It was judged among its peers, the moving and beautiful books of the present generation.

One aspect of The Setting Sun puzzled many readers, however, and may puzzle others in Dazai’s second novel No Longer Human:1 the role of Western culture in Japanese life today. Like Yozo, the chief figure of No Longer Human, Dazai grew up in a small town in the remote north of Japan, and we might have expected his novels to be marked by the simplicity, love of nature and purity of sentiments of the inhabitants of such a place. However, Dazai’s family was rich and educated, and from his childhood days he was familiar with European literature, American movies, reproductions of modern paintings and sculpture and much else of our civilization. These became such important parts of his own experience that he could not help being influenced by them, and he mentioned them quite as freely as might any author in Europe or America. In reading his works, however, we are sometimes made aware that Dazai’s understanding or use of these elements of the West is not always the same as ours. It is easy to conclude from this that Dazai had only half digested them, or even that the Japanese as a whole have somehow misappropriated our culture.

I confess that I find this parochialism curiou; s in the United States. Here where our suburbs are jammed with a variety of architecture which bears no relation to the antecedents of either the builders or the dwellers; where white people sing Negro spirituals and a Negro soprano sings Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera; where our celebrated national dishes, the frankfurter, the hamburger and chow mein betray by their very names non-American origins: can we with honesty rebuke the Japanese for a lack of purity in their modern culture? And can we criticize them for borrowing from us, when we are almost as conspicuously in their debt? We find it normal that we drink tea, their beverage, but curious that they should drink whiskey, ours. Our professional decorators, without thinking to impart to us an adequate background in Japanese aesthetics, decree that we should brighten our rooms with Buddhist statuary or with lamps in the shapes of paper-lanterns. Yet we are apt to find it incongruous if a Japanese ornaments his room with examples of Christian religious art or a lamp of Venetian glass. Why does it seem so strange that another country should have a culture as conglomerate as our own?

There are, it is true, works of recent Japanese literature which are relatively untouched by Western influence. Some of them are splendidly written, and convince us that we are getting from them what is most typically Japanese in modern fiction. If, however, we do not wish to resemble the Frenchman who finds the detective story the only worthwhile part of American literature, we must also be willing to read Japanese novels in which a modern (by modern I mean Western) intelligence is at work.

A writer with such an intelligence—Dazai was one—may also be attracted to the Japanese traditional culture, but it will virtually be with the eyes of a foreigner who finds it appealing but remote. Dostoievski and Proust are much closer to him than any Japanese writer of, say, the eighteenth century. Yet we should be unfair to consider such a writer a cultural déraciné; he is not much farther removed from his eighteenth century, after all, than we are from ours. In his case, to be sure, a foreign culture has intervened, but that culture is now in its third generation in Japan. No Japanese thinks of his business suit as an outlandish or affected garb; it is not only what he normally wears, but was probably also the costume of his father and grandfather before him. To wear Japanese garments would actually be strange and uncomfortable for most men. The majority of Japanese of today wear modern Western culture also as they wear their clothes, and to keep reminding them that their ancestors originally attired themselves otherwise is at once bad manners and foolish.

It may be wondered at the same time if the Japanese knowledge of the West is more than a set of clothes, however long worn or well tailored. Only a psychologist could properly attempt to answer so complex a question, although innumerable casual visitors to Japan have readily opined that under the foreign exterior the Japanese remain entirely unlike ourselves. I find this view hard to accept. It is true that the Japanese of today differ from Americans—perhaps not more, however, than do Greeks or Portuguese—but they are certainly much more like Americans than they are like their ancestors of one hundred years ago. As far as literature is concerned, the break with the Japanese past is almost complete.

In Japanese universities today the Japanese literature department is invariably one of the smallest and least supported. The bright young men generally devote themselves to a study of Western institutions or literature, and the academic journals are filled with learned articles on the symbolism of Leconte de Lisle or on the correspondence of James Knox Polk. The fact that these articles will never be read abroad, not even by specialists in Leconte de Lisle or James Knox Polk, inevitably creates a sense of isolation and even loneliness among intellectuals. Some Japanese of late have taken to referring to themselves as “the orphans of Asia,” indicating (and perhaps lamenting) the fact that although Japan has become isolated from the rest of Asia, the Western nations do not accept her literature or learning as part of their own. The Japanese writers of today are cut off from Asian literature as completely as the United States is from Latin American literature, by the conviction that there is nothing to learn. This attitude may be mistaken, but I remember how shocked a Japanese novelist, a friend of mine, was to see his own name included on a list of Lebanese, Iraqi, Burmese and miscellaneous other Asian writers who had been sponsored by an American foundation. He would undoubtedly have preferred to figure at the tail end of a list of Western writers or of world writers in general than to be classed with such obscure exotics.

We might like to reprimand the Japanese for the neglect of their own traditional culture, or to insist that Japanese writers should be proud to be associated with other Asians, but such advice comes too late: as the result of our repeated and forcible intrusions in the past, Western tastes are coming to dominate letters everywhere. The most we have reason to expect in the future are world variants of a single literature, of the kind which already exist nationally in Europe.

No Longer Human is almost symbolic of the predicament of the Japanese writers today. It is the story of a man who is orphaned from his fellows by their refusal to take him seriously. He is denied the love of his father, taken advantage of by his friends, and finally in turn is cruel to the women who love him. He does not insist because of his experiences that the others are all wrong and he alone right. On the contrary, he records with devastating honesty his every transgression of a code of human conduct which he cannot fathom. Yet, as Dazai realized (if the “I” of the novel did not), the cowardly acts and moments of abject collapse do not tell the whole story. In a superb epilogue the only objective witness testifies, “He was an angel,” and we are suddenly made to realize the incompleteness of Yozo’s portrait of himself. In the way that most men fail to see their own cruelty, Yozo had not noticed his gentleness and his capacity for love.

Yozo’s experiences are certainly not typical of all Japanese intellectuals, but the sense of isolation which they feel between themselves and the rest of the world is perhaps akin to Yozo’s conviction that he alone is not “human.” Again, his frustrations at the university, his unhappy involvement with the Communist Party, his disastrous love affairs, all belong to the past of many writers of today. At the same time, detail after detail clearly is derived from the individual experience of Osamu Dazai himself. The temptation is strong to consider the book as a barely fictionalized autobiography, but this would be a mistake, I am sure. Dazai had the creative artistry of a great cameraman. His lens is often trained on moments of his own past, but thanks to his brilliant skill in composition and selection his photographs are not what we expect to find cluttering an album. There is nothing of the meandering reminiscer about Dazai; with him all is sharp, brief and evocative. Even if each scene of No Longer Human were the exact reproduction of an incident from Dazai’s life—of course this is not the case—his technique would qualify the whole of the work as one of original fiction.

No Longer Human is not a cheerful book, yet its effect is far from that of a painful wound gratuitously inflicted on the reader. As a reviewer (Richard Gilman in Jubilee) wrote of Dazai’s earlier novel, “Such is the power of art to transfigure what is objectively ignoble or depraved that The Setting Sun is actually deeply moving and even inspiriting. . . . To know the nature of despair and to triumph over it in the ways that are possible to oneself—imagination was Dazai’s only weapon—is surely a sort of grace.”

Donald Keene


I have seen three pictures of the man.

The first, a childhood photograph you might call it, shows him about the age of ten, a small boy surrounded by a great many women (his sisters and cousins, no doubt). He stands in brightly checked trousers by the edge of a garden pond. His head is tilted at an angle thirty degrees to the left, and his teeth are bared in an ugly smirk. Ugly? You may well question the word, for insensitive people (that is to say, those indifferent to matters of beauty and ugliness) would mechanically comment with a bland, vacuous expression, “What an adorable little boy!” It is quite true that what commonly passes for “adorable” is sufficiently present in this child’s face to give a modicum of meaning to the compliment. But I think that anyone who had ever been subjected to the least exposure to what makes for beauty would most likely toss the photograph to one side with the gesture employed in brushing away a caterpillar, and mutter in profound revulsion, “What a dreadful child!”

Indeed, the more carefully you examine the child’s smiling face the more you feel an indescribable, unspeakable horror creeping over you. You see that it is actually not a smiling face at all. The boy has not a suggestion of a smile. Look at his tightly clenched fists if you want proof. No human being can smile with his fists doubled like that. It is a monkey. A grinning monkey-face. The smile is nothing more than a puckering of ugly wrinkles. The photograph reproduces an expression so freakish, and at the same time so unclean and even nauseating, that your impulse is to say, “What a wizened, hideous little boy!” I have never seen a child with such an unaccountable expression.

The face in the second snapshot is startlingly unlike the first. He is a student in this picture, although it is not clear whether it dates from high school or college days. At any rate, he is now extraordinarily handsome. But here again the face fails inexplicably to give the impression of belonging to a living human being. He wears a student’s uniform and a white handkerchief peeps from his breast pocket. He sits in a wicker chair with his legs crossed. Again he is smiling, this time not the wizened monkey’s grin but a rather adroit little smile. And yet somehow it is not the smile of a human being: it utterly lacks substance, all of what we might call the “heaviness of blood” or perhaps the “solidity of human life”—it has not even a bird’s weight. It is merely a blank sheet of paper, light as a feather, and it is smiling. The picture produces, in short, a sensation of complete artificiality. Pretense, insincerity, fatuousness—none of these words quite covers it. And of course you couldn’t dismiss it simply as dandyism. In fact, if you look carefully you will begin to feel that there is something strangely unpleasant about this handsome young man. I have never seen a young man whose good looks were so baffling.

The remaining photograph is the most monstrous of all. It is quite impossible in this one even to guess the age, though the hair seems to be streaked somewhat with grey. It was taken in a corner of an extraordinarily dirty room (you can plainly see in the picture how the wall is crumbling in three places). His small hands are held in front of him. This time he is not smiling. There is no expression whatsoever. The picture has a genuinely chilling, foreboding quality, as if it caught him in the act of dying as he sat before the camera, his hands held over a heater. That is not the only shocking thing about it. The head is shown quite large, and you can examine the features in detail: the forehead is average, the wrinkles on the forehead average, the eyebrows also average, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the chin . . . the face is not merely devoid of expression, it fails even to leave a memory. It has no individuality. I have only to shut my eyes after looking at it to forget the face. I can remember the wall of the room, the little heater, but all impression of the face of the principal figure in the room is blotted out; I am unable to recall a single thing about it. This face could never be made the subject of a painting, not even of a cartoon. I open my eyes. There is not even the pleasure of recollecting: of course, that’s the kind of face it was! To state the matter in the most extreme terms: when I open my eyes and look at the photograph a second time I still cannot remember it. Besides, it rubs against me the wrong way, and makes me feel so uncomfortable that in the end I want to avert my eyes.

I think that even a death mask would hold more of an expression, leave more of a memory. That effigy suggests nothing so much as a human body to which a horse’s head has been attached. Something ineffable makes the beholder shudder in distaste. I have never seen such an inscrutable face on a man.


Mine has been a life of much shame.

I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being. I was born in a village in the Northeast, and it wasn’t until I was quite big that I saw my first train. I climbed up and down the station bridge, quite unaware that its function was to permit people to cross from one track to another. I was convinced that the bridge had been provided to lend an exotic touch and to make the station premises a place of pleasant diversity, like some foreign playground. I remained under this delusion for quite a long time, and it was for me a very refined amusement indeed to climb up and down the bridge. I thought that it was one of the most elegant services provided by the railways. When later I discovered that the bridge was nothing more than a utilitarian device, I lost all interest in it.

Again, when as a child I saw photographs of subway trains in picture books, it never occurred to me that they had been invented out of practical necessity; I could only suppose that riding underground instead of on the surface must be a novel and delightful pastime.

I have been sickly ever since I was a child and have frequently been confined to bed. How often as I lay there I used to think what uninspired decorations sheets and pillow cases make. It wasn’t until I was about twenty that I realized that they actually served a practical purpose, and this revelation of human dullness stirred dark depression in me.

Again, I have never known what it means to be hungry. I don’t mean by this statement that I was raised in a well-to-do family—I have no such banal intent. I mean that I have had not the remotest idea of the nature of the sensation of “hunger.” It sounds peculiar to say it, but I have never been aware that my stomach was empty. When as a boy I returned home from school the people at home would make a great fuss over me. “You must be hungry. We remember what it’s like, how terribly hungry you feel by the time you get home from school. How about some jelly beans? There’s cake and biscuits too.” Seeking to please, as I invariably did, I would mumble that I was hungry, and stuff a dozen jelly beans in my mouth, but what they meant by feeling hungry completely escaped me.

Of course I do eat a great deal all the same, but I have almost no recollection of ever having done so out of hunger. Unusual or extravagant things tempt me, and when I go to the house of somebody else I eat almost everything put before me, even if it takes some effort. As a child the most painful part of the day was unquestionably mealtime, especially in my own home.

At my house in the country the whole family—we were about ten in number—ate together, lined up in two facing rows at table. Being the youngest child I naturally sat at the end. The dining room was dark, and the sight of the ten or more members of the household eating their lunch, or whatever the meal was, in gloomy silence was enough to send chills through me. Besides, this was an old-fashioned country household where the food was more or less prescribed, and it was useless even to hope for unusual or extravagant dishes. I dreaded mealtime more each day. I would sit there at the end of the table in the dimly lit room and, trembling all over as with the cold, I would lift a few morsels of food to my mouth and push them in. “Why must human beings eat three meals every single day? What extraordinarily solemn faces they all make as they eat! It seems to be some kind of ritual. Three times every day at the regulated hour the family gathers in this gloomy room. The places are all laid out in the proper order and, regardless of whether we’re hungry or not, we munch our food in silence, with lowered eyes. Who knows? It may be an act of prayer to propitiate whatever spirits may be lurking around the house. . . .” At times I went so far as to think in such terms.

Eat or die, the saying goes, but to my ears it sounded like just one more unpleasant threat. Nevertheless this superstition (I could only think of it as such) always aroused doubt and fear in me. Nothing was so hard for me to understand, so baffling, and at the same time so filled with menacing overtones as the commonplace remark, “Human beings work to earn their bread, for if they don’t eat, they die.”

In other words, you might say that I still have no understanding of what makes human beings tick. My apprehension on discovering that my concept of happiness seemed to be completely at variance with that of everyone else was so great as to make me toss sleeplessly and groan night after night in my bed. It drove me indeed to the brink of lunacy. I wonder if I have actually been happy. People have told me, really more times than I can remember, ever since I was a small boy, how lucky I was, but I have always felt as if I were suffering in hell. It has seemed to me in fact that those who called me lucky were incomparably more fortunate than I.

I have sometimes thought that I have been burdened with a pack of ten misfortunes, any one of which if borne by my neighbor would be enough to make a murderer of him.

I simply don’t understand. I have not the remotest clue what the nature or extent of my neighbor’s woes can be. Practical troubles, griefs that can be assuaged if only there is enough to eat—these may be the most intense of all burning hells, horrible enough to blast to smithereens my ten misfortunes, but that is precisely what I don’t understand: if my neighbors manage to survive without killing themselves, without going mad, maintaining an interest in political parties, not yielding to despair, resolutely pursuing the fight for existence, can their griefs really be genuine? Am I wrong in thinking that these people have become such complete egoists and are so convinced of the normality of their way of life that they have never once doubted themselves? If that is the case, their sufferings should be easy to bear: they are the common lot of human beings and perhaps the best one can hope for. I don’t know ... If you’ve slept soundly at night the morning is exhilarating, I suppose. What kind of dreams do they have? What do they think about when they walk along the street? Money? Hardly—it couldn’t only be that. I seem to have heard the theory advanced that human beings live in order to eat, but I’ve never heard anyone say that they lived in order to make money. No. And yet, in some instances. . . . No, I don’t even know that. . . . The more I think of it, the less I understand. All I feel are the assaults of apprehension and terror at the thought that I am the only one who is entirely unlike the rest. It is almost impossible for me to converse with other people. What should I talk about, how should I say it?—I don’t know.

This was how I happened to invent my clowning.

It was the last quest for love I was to direct at human beings. Although I had a mortal dread of human beings I seemed quite unable to renounce their society. I managed to maintain on the surface a smile which never deserted my lips; this was the accommodation I offered to others, a most precarious achievement performed by me only at the cost of excruciating efforts within.

As a child I had absolutely no notion of what others, even members of my own family, might be suffering or what they were thinking. I was aware only of my own unspeakable fears and embarrassments. Before anyone realized it, I had become an accomplished clown, a child who never spoke a single truthful word.

I have noticed that in photographs of me taken about that time together with my family, the others all have serious faces; only mine is invariably contorted into a peculiar smile. This was one more variety of my childish, pathetic antics.

Again, I never once answered back anything said to me by my family. The least word of reproof struck me with the force of a thunderbolt and drove me almost out of my head. Answer back! Far from it, I felt convinced that their reprimands were without doubt voices of human truth speaking to me from eternities past; I was obsessed with the idea that since I lacked the strength to act in accordance with this truth, I might already have been disqualified from living among human beings. This belief made me incapable of arguments or self-justification. Whenever anyone criticized me I felt certain that I had been living under the most dreadful misapprehension. I always accepted the attack in silence, though inwardly so terrified as almost to be out of my mind.

It is true, I suppose, that nobody finds it exactly pleasant to be criticized or shouted at, but I see in the face of the human being raging at me a wild animal in its true colors, one more horrible than any lion, crocodile or dragon. People normally seem to be hiding this true nature, but an occasion will arise (as when an ox sedately ensconced in a grassy meadow suddenly lashes out with its tail to kill the horsefly on its flank) when anger makes them reveal in a flash human nature in all its horror. Seeing this happen has always induced in me a fear great enough to make my hair stand on end, and at the thought that this nature might be one of the prerequisites for survival as a human being, I have come close to despairing of myself.

I have always shook with fright before human beings. Unable as I was to feel the least particle of confidence in my ability to speak and act like a human being, I kept my solitary agonies locked in my breast. I kept my melancholy and my agitation hidden, careful lest any trace should be left exposed. I feigned an innocent optimism; I gradually perfected myself in the role of the farcical eccentric.

I thought, “As long as I can make them laugh, it doesn’t matter how, I’ll be all right. If I succeed in that, the human beings probably won’t mind it too much if I remain outside their lives. The one thing I must avoid is becoming offensive in their eyes: I shall be nothing, the wind, the sky.” My activities as jester, a role born of desperation, were extended even to the servants, whom I feared even more than my family because I found them incomprehensible.

In the summer I made everybody laugh by sauntering through the house wearing a red woolen sweater under my cotton kimono. Even my elder brother, who was rarely given to mirth, burst out laughing and commented in intolerably affectionate tones, “That doesn’t look so good on you, Yozo.” But for all my follies I was not so insensitive to heat and cold as to walk around in a woolen sweater at the height of summer. I had pulled my little sister’s leggings over my arms, letting just enough stick out at the opening of the sleeves to give the impression that I was wearing a sweater.

My father frequently had business in Tokyo and maintained a town house for that reason. He spent two or three weeks of the month at a time in the city, always returning laden with a really staggering quantity of presents, not only for members of our immediate family, but even for our relatives. It was a kind of hobby on his part. Once, the night before he was to leave for Tokyo, he summoned all the children to the parlor and smilingly asked us what present we would like this time, carefully noting each child’s reply in a little book. It was most unusual for Father to behave so affectionately with the children.

“How about you, Yozo?” he asked, but I could only stammer uncertainly.

Whenever I was asked what I wanted my first impulse was to answer “Nothing.” The thought went through my mind that it didn’t make any difference, that nothing was going to make me happy. At the same time I was congenitally unable to refuse anything offered to me by another person, no matter how little it might suit my tastes. When I hated something, I could not pronounce the words, “I don’t like it.” When I liked something I tasted it hesitantly, furtively, as though it were extremely bitter. In either case I was torn by unspeakable fear. In other words, I hadn’t the strength even to choose between two alternatives. In this fact, I believe, lay one of the characteristics which in later years was to develop into a major cause of my “life of shame.”

I remained silent, fidgeting. My father lost a little of his good humor.

“Will it be a book for you? Or how about a mask for the New Year lion dance? They sell them now in children’s sizes. Wouldn’t you like one?”

The fatal words “wouldn’t you like one?” made it quite impossible for me to answer. I couldn’t even think of any suitably clownish response. The jester had completely failed.

“A book would be best, I suppose,” my brother said seriously.

“Oh?” The pleasure drained from my father’s face. He snapped his notebook shut without writing anything.

What a failure. Now I had angered my father and I could be sure that his revenge would be something fearful. That night as I lay shivering in bed I tried to think if there were still not some way of redressing the situation. I crept out of bed, tiptoed down to the parlor, and opened the drawer of the desk where my father had most likely put his notebook. I found the book and took it out. I riffled through the pages until I came to the place where he had jotted down our requests for presents. I licked the notebook pencil and wrote in big letters LION MASK. This accomplished I returned to my bed. I had not the faintest wish for a lion mask. In fact, I would actually have preferred a book. But it was obvious that Father wanted to buy me a mask, and my frantic desire to cater to his wishes and restore his good humor had emboldened me to sneak into the parlor in the dead of night.

This desperate expedient was rewarded by the great success I had hoped for. When, some days later, my father returned from Tokyo I overheard him say to Mother in his loud voice—I was in the children’s room at the time—“What do you think I found when I opened my notebook in the toy shop? See, somebody has written here ‘lion mask.’ It’s not my handwriting. For a minute I couldn’t figure it out, then it came to me. This was some of Yozo’s mischief. You know, I asked him what he wanted from Tokyo, but he just stood there grinning without saying a word. Later he must have got to wanting that lion mask so badly he couldn’t stand it. He’s certainly a funny kid. Pretends not to know what he wants and then goes and writes it. If he wanted the mask so much all he had to do was tell me. I burst out laughing in front of everybody in the toy shop. Ask him to come here at once.”

On another occasion I assembled all our men and women servants in the foreign-style room. I got one of the menservants to bang at random on the keys of the piano (our house was well equipped with most amenities even though we were in the country), and I made everyone roar with laughter by cavorting in a wild Indian dance to his hit and miss tune. My brother took a flashbulb photograph of me performing my dance. When the picture was developed you could see my peepee through the opening between the two handkerchiefs which served for a loincloth, and this too occasioned much merriment. It was perhaps to be accounted a triumph which surpassed my own expectations.

I used to subscribe regularly to a dozen or more children’s magazines and for my private reading ordered books of all sorts from Tokyo. I became an adept in the exploits of Dr. Nonsentius and Dr. Knowitall, and was intimately acquainted with all manner of spooky stories, tales of adventure, collections of jokes, songs and the like. I was never short of material for the absurd stories I solemnly related to make the members of my family laugh.

But what of my schooling?

I was well on the way to winning respect. But the idea of being respected used to intimidate me excessively. My definition of a “respected” man was one who had succeeded almost completely in hoodwinking people, but who was finally seen through by some omniscient, omnipotent person who ruined him and made him suffer a shame worse than death. Even supposing I could deceive most human beings into respecting me, one of them would know the truth, and sooner or later other human beings would learn from him. What would be the wrath and vengeance of those who realized how they had been tricked! That was a hair-raising thought.

I acquired my reputation at school less because I was the son of a rich family than because, in the vulgar parlance, I had “brains.” Being a sickly child, I often missed school for a month or two or even a whole school year at a stretch. Nevertheless, when I returned to school, still convalescent and in a rickshaw, and took the examinations at the end of the year, I was always first in my class, thanks to my “brains.” I never studied, even when I was well. During recitation time at school I would draw cartoons and in the recess periods I made the other children in the class laugh with the explanations to my drawings. In the composition class I wrote nothing but funny stories. My teacher admonished me, but that didn’t make me stop, for I knew that he secretly enjoyed my stories. One day I submitted a story written in a particularly doleful style recounting how when I was taken by my mother on the train to Tokyo, I had made water in a spittoon in the corridor. (But at the time I had not been ignorant that it was a spittoon; I deliberately made my blunder, pretending a childish innocence.) I was so sure that the teacher would laugh that I stealthily followed him to the staff room. As soon as he left the classroom the teacher pulled out my composition from the stack written by my classmates. He began to read as he walked down the hall, and was soon snickering. He went into the staff room and a minute or so later—was it when he finished it?—he burst into loud guffaws, his face scarlet with laughter. I watched him press my paper on the other teachers. I felt very pleased with myself.

A mischievous little imp.

I had succeeded in appearing mischievous. I had succeeded in escaping from being respected. My report card was all A’s except for deportment, where it was never better than a C or a D. This too was a source of great amusement to my family.

My true nature, however, was one diametrically opposed to the role of a mischievous imp. Already by that time I had been taught a lamentable thing by the maids and menservants; I was being corrupted. I now think that to perpetrate such a thing on a small child is the ugliest, vilest, cruelest crime a human being can commit. But I endured it. I even felt as if it enabled me to see one more particular aspect of human beings. I smiled in my weakness. If I had formed the habit of telling the truth I might perhaps have been able to confide unabashedly to my father or mother about the crime, but I could not fully understand even my own parents. To appeal for help to any human being—I could expect nothing from that expedient. Supposing I complained to my father or my mother, or to the police, the government—I wondered if in the end I would not be argued into silence by someone in good graces with the world, by the excuses of which the world approved.

It is only too obvious that favoritism inevitably exists: it would have been useless to complain to human beings. So I said nothing of the truth. I felt I had no choice but to endure whatever came my way and go on playing the clown.

Some perhaps will deride me. “What do you mean by not having faith in human beings? When did you become a Christian anyway?” I fail to see, however, that a distrust for human beings should necessarily lead directly to religion. Is it not true, rather, that human beings, including those who may now be deriding me, are living in mutual distrust, giving not a thought to God or anything else?

There was something that happened when I was a small boy. A celebrated figure of the political party to which my father belonged had come to deliver a speech in our town, and I had been taken by the servants to the theatre to hear him. The house was packed. Everybody in town who was especially friendly to my father was present and enthusiastically applauding. When the speech was over the audience filtered out in threes and fives into the night. As they set out for home on the snow-covered roads they were scathingly commenting on the meeting. I could distinguish among the voices those of my father’s closest friends complaining in tones almost of anger about how inept my father’s opening remarks had been, and how difficult it was to make head or tail out of the great man’s address. Then these men stopped by my house, went into our parlor, and told my father with expressions of genuine delight on their faces what a great success the meeting had been. Even the servants, when asked by my mother about the meeting, answered as if it were their spontaneous thought, that it had been really interesting. These were the selfsame servants who had been bitterly complaining on the way home that political meetings are the most boring thing in the world.

This, however, is only a minor example. I am convinced that human life is filled with many pure, happy, serene examples of insincerity, truly splendid of their kind—of people deceiving one another without (strangely enough) any wounds being inflicted, of people who seem unaware even that they are deceiving one another. But I have no special interest in instances of mutual deception. I myself spent the whole day long deceiving human beings with my clowning. I have not been able to work up much concern over the morality prescribed in textbooks of ethics under such names as “righteousness.” I find it difficult to understand the kind of human being who lives, or who is sure he can live, purely, happily, serenely while engaged in deceit. Human beings never did teach me that abstruse secret. If I had only known that one thing I should never have had to dread human beings so, nor should I have opposed myself to human life, nor tasted such torments of hell every night. In short, I believe that the reason why I did not tell anyone about that loathesome crime perpetrated on me by the servants was not because of distrust for human beings, nor of course because of Christian leanings, but because the human beings around me had rigorously sealed me off from the world of trust or distrust. Even my parents at times displayed attitudes which were hard for me to understand.

I also have the impression that many women have been able, instinctively, to sniff out this loneliness of mine, which I confided to no one, and this in later years was to become one of the causes of my being taken advantage of in so many ways.

Women found in me a man who could keep a love secret.


On the shore, at a point so close to the ocean one might imagine it was there that the waves broke, stood a row of over twenty fairly tall cherry trees with coal-black trunks. Every April when the new school year was about to begin these trees would display their dazzling blossoms and their moist brown leaves against the blue of the sea. Soon a snowstorm of blossoms would scatter innumerable petals into the water, flecking the surface with points of white which the waves carried back to the shore. This beach strewn with cherry blossoms served as the playground of the high school I attended. Stylized cherry blossoms flowered even on the badge of the regulation school cap and on the buttons of our uniforms.

A distant relative of mine had a house nearby, which was one reason why my father had especially selected for me this school of cherry blossoms by the sea. I was left in the care of the family, whose house was so close to the school that even after the morning bell had rung I could still make it to my class in time if I ran. That was the kind of lazy student I was, but I nevertheless managed, thanks to my accustomed antics, to win popularity with my schoolmates.

This was my first experience living in a strange town. I found it far more agreeable than my native place. One might attribute this, perhaps, to the fact that my clowning had by this time become so much a part of me that it was no longer such a strain to trick others. I wonder, though, if it was not due instead to the incontestable difference in the problem involved in performing before one’s own family and strangers, or in one’s own town and elsewhere. This problem exists no matter how great a genius one may be. An actor dreads most the audience in his home town; I imagine the greatest actor in the world would be quite paralyzed in a room where all his family and relatives were gathered to watch him. But I had learned to play my part. I had moreover been quite a success. It was inconceivable that so talented an actor would fail away from home.

The fear of human beings continued to writhe in my breast—I am not sure whether more or less intensely than before—but my acting talents had unquestionably matured. I could always convulse the classroom with laughter, and even as the teacher protested what a good class it would be if only I were not in it, he would be laughing behind his hand. At a word from me even the military drill instructor, whose more usual idiom was a barbarous, thunderous roar, would burst into helpless laughter.

Just when I had begun to relax my guard a bit, fairly confident that I had succeeded by now in concealing completely my true identity, I was stabbed in the back, quite unexpectedly. The assailant, like most people who stab in the back, bordered on being a simpleton—the puniest boy in the class, whose scrofulous face and floppy jacket with sleeves too long for him was complemented by a total lack of proficiency in his studies and by such clumsiness in military drill and physical training that he was perpetually designated as an “onlooker.” Not surprisingly, I failed to recognize the need to be on my guard against him.

That day Takeichi (that was the boy’s name, as I recall) was as usual “onlooking” during the physical training period while the rest of us drilled on the horizontal bar. Deliberately assuming as solemn a face as I could muster, I lunged overhead at the bar, shouting with the effort. I missed the bar and sailed on as if I were making a broad jump, landing with a thud in the sand on the seat of my pants. This failure was entirely premeditated, but everybody burst out laughing, exactly as I had planned. I got to my feet with a rueful smile and was brushing the sand from my pants when Takeichi, who had crept up from somewhere behind, poked me in the back. He murmured, “You did it on purpose.”

I trembled all over. I might have guessed that someone would detect that I had deliberately missed the bar, but that Takeichi should have been the one came as a bolt from the blue. I felt as if I had seen the world before me burst in an instant into the raging flames of hell. It was all I could do to suppress a wild shriek of terror.

The ensuing days were imprinted with my anxiety and dread. I continued on the surface making everybody laugh with my miserable clowning, but now and then painful sighs escaped my lips. Whatever I did Takeichi would see through it, and I was sure he would soon start spreading the word to everyone he saw. At this thought my forehead broke out in a sweat; I stared around me vacantly with the wild eyes of a madman. If it were possible, I felt, I would like to keep a twenty-four hours a day surveillance over Takeichi, never stirring from him, morning, noon or night, to make sure that he did not divulge the secret. I brooded over what I should do: I would devote the hours spent with him to persuading him that my antics were not “on purpose” but the genuine article; if things went well I would like to become his inseparable friend; but if this proved utterly impossible, I had no choice but to pray for his death. Typically enough, the one thing that never occurred to me was to kill him. During the course of my life I have wished innumerable times that I might meet with a violent death, but I have never once desired to kill anybody. I thought that in killing a dreaded adversary I might actually be bringing him happiness.

In order to win over Takeichi I clothed my face in the gentle beguiling smile of the false Christian. I strolled everywhere with him, my arm lightly around his scrawny shoulders, my head tilted affectionately towards him. I frequently would invite him in honeyed, cajoling tones to come and play in the house where I was lodging. But instead of an answer he always gave me only blank stares in return.

One day after school was let out—it must have been in the early summer—there was a sudden downpour. The other students were making a great fuss about getting back to their lodgings, but since I lived just around the corner, I decided to make a dash for it. Just as I was about to rush outside, I noticed Takeichi hovering dejectedly in the entrance way. I said, “Let’s go. I’ll lend you my umbrella.” I grabbed Takeichi’s hand as he hesitated, and ran out with him into the rain. When we arrived home I asked my aunt to dry our jackets. I had succeeded in luring Takeichi to my room.

The household consisted of my aunt, a woman in her fifties, and my two cousins, the older of whom was a tall, frail, bespectacled girl of about thirty (she had been married at one time but was later separated), and the younger a short, round-faced girl who looked fresh out of high school. The ground floor of the house was given over to a shop where small quantities of stationery supplies and sporting goods were offered for sale, but the principal source of income was the rent from the five or six tenements built by my late uncle.

Takeichi, standing haplessly in my room, said, “My ears hurt.”

“They must’ve got wet in the rain.” I examined his ears and discovered they were both running horribly. The lobes seemed filled to the bursting with pus. I simulated an exaggerated concern. “This looks terrible. It must hurt.” Then, in the gentle tones a woman might use, I apologized, “I’m so sorry I dragged you out in all this rain.”

I went downstairs to fetch some cotton wool and alcohol. Takeichi lay on the floor with his head on my lap, and I painstakingly swabbed his ears. Even Takeichi seemed not to be aware of the hypocrisy, the scheming, behind my actions. Far from it—his comment as he lay there with his head pillowed in my lap was, “I’ll bet lots of women will fall for you!”—It was his illiterate approximation of a compliment.

This, I was to learn in later years, was a kind of demoniacal prophecy, more horrible than Takeichi could have realized. “To fall for,” “to be fallen for”—I feel in these words something unspeakably vulgar, farcical, and at the same time extraordinarily complacent. Once these expressions put in an appearance, no matter how solemn the place, the silent cathedrals of melancholy crumble, leaving nothing but an impression of fatuousness. It is curious, but the cathedrals of melancholy are not necessarily demolished if one can replace the vulgar “What a messy business it is to be fallen for” by the more literary “What uneasiness lies in being loved.”

Takeichi uttered that idiotic compliment, that women would fall for me, because I had been kind enough to clean the discharge from his ears. My reaction at the time was merely to blush and smile, without saying a word in return but, to tell the truth, I already had a faint inkling of what his prophecy implied. No, to speak in those terms of the atmosphere engendered by so vulgar an expression as “to fall for” is to betray a precocity of sentiment not even worthy of the dialogue of the romantic lead in a musical comedy; I certainly was not moved by the farcical, self-satisfied emotions suggested by the phrase “to have a faint inkling.”

I have always found the female of the human species many times more difficult to understand than the male. In my immediate family women outnumbered the men, and many of my cousins were girls. There was also the maidservant of the “crime.” I think it would be no exaggeration to say that my only playmates while I was growing up were girls. Nevertheless, it was with very much the sensation of treading on thin ice that I associated with these girls. I could almost never guess their motives. I was in the dark; at times I made indiscreet mistakes which brought me painful wounds. These wounds, unlike the scars from the lashing a man might give, cut inwards very deep, like an internal hemorrhage, bringing intense discomfort. Once inflicted it was extremely hard to recover from such wounds.

Women led me on only to throw me aside; they mocked and tortured me when others were around, only to embrace me with passion as soon as everyone had left. Women sleep so soundly they seem to be dead. Who knows? Women may live in order to sleep. These and various other generalizations were products of an observation of women since boyhood days, but my conclusion was that though women appear to belong to the same species as man, they are actually quite different creatures, and these incomprehensible, insidious beings have, fantastic as it seems, always looked after me. In my case such an expression as “to be fallen for” or even “to be loved” is not in the least appropriate; perhaps it describes the situation more accurately to say that I was “looked after.”

Women were also less demanding than men when it came to my clowning. When I played the jester men did not go on laughing indefinitely. I knew that if I got carried away by my success in entertaining a man and overdid the role, my comedy would fall flat, and I was always careful to quit at a suitable place. Women, on the other hand, have no sense of moderation. No matter how long I went on with my antics they would ask for more, and I would become exhausted responding to their insatiable demands for encores. They really laugh an amazing amount of the time. I suppose one can say that women stuff themselves with far more pleasures than men.

The two cousins in whose house I was living while attending school used to visit my room whenever they had the time. Their knock on my door, no matter how often it came, never failed to startle me so that I almost jumped in fright.

“Are you studying?”

“No,” I would say with a smile, shutting my book. I would launch into some silly story, miles removed from what I was thinking. “Today at school the geography teacher, the one we call the Walrus . . .”

One evening my cousins came to my room and after they had compelled me to clown at unmerciful lengths, one of them proposed, “Yozo, let’s see how you look with glasses on.”


“Don’t make such a fuss. Put them on. Here, take these glasses.”

They invariably spoke in the same harsh, peremptory tones. The clown meekly put on the older girl’s glasses. My cousins were convulsed with laughter.

“You look exactly like him. Exactly like Harold Lloyd.”

The American movie comedian was very popular at the time in Japan.

I stood up. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, raising one arm in greeting, “I should like on this occasion to thank all my Japanese fans—”

I went through the motions of making a speech. They laughed all the harder. From then on whenever a Harold Lloyd movie came to town I went to see it and secretly studied his expressions.

One autumn evening as I was lying in bed reading a book, the older of my cousins—I always called her Sister—suddenly darted into my room quick as a bird, and collapsed over my bed. She whispered through her tears, “Yozo, you’ll help me, I know. I know you will. Let’s run away from this terrible house together. Oh, help me, please.”

She continued in this hysterical vein for a while only to burst into tears again. This was not the first time that a woman had put on such a scene before me, and Sister’s excessively emotional words did not surprise me much. I felt instead a certain boredom at their banality and emptiness. I slipped out of bed, went to my desk and picked up a persimmon. I peeled it and offered Sister a section. She ate it, still sobbing, and said, “Have you any interesting books? Lend me something.”

I chose Sôseki’s I am a Cat from my bookshelf and handed it to her.

“Thanks for the persimmon,” Sister said as she left the room, an embarrassed smile on her face. Sister was not the only one—I have often felt that I would find it more complicated, troublesome and unpleasant to ascertain the feelings by which a woman lives than to plumb the innermost thoughts of an earthworm. Long personal experience had taught me that when a woman suddenly bursts into hysterics, the way to restore her spirits is to give her something sweet.

Her younger sister, Setchan, would even bring friends to my room, and in my usual fashion I amused them all with perfect impartiality. As soon as a friend had left Setchan would tell me disagreeable things about her, inevitably concluding, “She’s a bad girl. You must be careful of her.” “If that’s the case,” I wanted to say, “you needn’t have gone to the trouble of bringing her here.” Thanks to Setchan almost all the visitors to my room were girls.

This, however, by no means implies that Takeichi’s compliment, “Women’ll fall for you” had as yet been realized. I was merely the Harold Lloyd of Northeast Japan. Not for some years would Takeichi’s silly statement come palpitatingly alive, metamorphosed into a sinister prophecy.

Takeichi made one other important gift to me.

One day he came to my room to play. He was waving a brightly colored picture which he proudly displayed. “It’s a picture of a ghost,” he explained.

I was startled. That instant, as I could not help feeling in later years, determined my path of escape. I knew what Takeichi was showing me. I knew that it was only the familiar self-portrait of van Gogh. When we were children the French Impressionist School was very popular in Japan, and our first introduction to an appreciation of Western painting most often began with such works. The paintings of van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Renoir were familiar even to students at country schools, mainly through photographic reproductions. I myself had seen quite a few colored photographs of van Gogh’s paintings. His brushwork and the vividness of his colors had intrigued me, but I had never imagined his pictures to be of ghosts.

I took from my bookshelf a volume of Modigliani reproductions, and showed Takeichi the familiar nudes with skin the color of burnished copper. “How about these? Do you suppose they’re ghosts too?”

“They’re terrific.” Takeichi widened his eyes in admiration. “This one looks like a horse out of hell.”

“They really are ghosts then, aren’t they?”

“I wish I could paint pictures of ghosts like that,” said Takeichi.

There are some people whose dread of human beings is so morbid that they reach a point where they yearn to see with their own eyes monsters of ever more horrible shapes. And the more nervous they are—the quicker to take fright—the more violent they pray that every storm will be . . . Painters who have had this mentality, after repeated wounds and intimidations at the hands of the apparitions called human beings, have often come to believe in phantasms—they plainly saw monsters in broad daylight, in the midst of nature. And they did not fob people off with clowning; they did their best to depict these monsters just as they had appeared. Takeichi was right: they had dared to paint pictures of devils. These, I thought, would be my friends in the future. I was so excited I could have wept.

“I’m going to paint too. I’m going to paint pictures of ghosts and devils and horses out of hell.” My voice as I spoke these words to Takeichi was lowered to a barely audible whisper, why I don’t know.

Ever since elementary school days I enjoyed drawing and looking at pictures. But my pictures failed to win the reputation among my fellow students that my comic stories did. I have never had the least trust in the opinions of human beings, and my stories represented to me nothing more than the clown’s gesture of greeting to his audience; they enraptured all of my teachers but for me they were devoid of the slightest interest. Only to my paintings, to the depiction of the object (my cartoons were something else again) did I devote any real efforts of my original though childish style. The copybooks for drawing we used at school were dreary; the teacher’s pictures were incredibly inept; and I was obliged to experiment for myself entirely without direction, using every method of expression which came to me. I owned a set of oil paints and brushes from the time I entered high school. I sought to model my techniques on those of the Impressionist School, but my pictures remained flat as paper cutouts, and seemed to offer no promise of ever developing into anything. But Takeichi’s words made me aware that my mental attitude towards painting had been completely mistaken. What superficiality—and what stupidity—there is in trying to depict in a pretty manner things which one has thought pretty. The masters through their subjective perceptions created beauty out of trivialities. They did not hide their interest even in things which were nauseatingly ugly, but soaked themselves in the pleasure of depicting them. In other words, they seemed not to rely in the least on the misconceptions of others. Now that I had been initiated by Takeichi into these root secrets of the art of painting, I began to do a few self-portraits, taking care that they not be seen by my female visitors.

The pictures I drew were so heart-rending as to stupefy even myself. Here was the true self I had so desperately hidden. I had smiled cheerfully; I had made others laugh; but this was the harrowing reality. I secretly affirmed this self, was sure that there was no escape from it, but naturally I did not show my pictures to anyone except Takeichi. I disliked the thought that I might suddenly be subjected to their suspicious vigilance, when once the nightmarish reality under the clowning was detected. On the other hand, I was equally afraid that they might not recognize my true self when they saw it, but imagine that it was just some new twist to my clowning—occasion for additional snickers. This would have been most painful of all. I therefore hid the pictures in the back of my cupboard.

In school drawing classes I also kept secret my “ghost-style” techniques and continued to paint as before in the conventional idiom of pretty things.

To Takeichi (and to him alone) I could display my easily wounded sensibilities, and I did not hesitate now to show him my self-portraits. He was very enthusiastic, and I painted two or three more, plus a picture of a ghost, earning from Takeichi the prediction, “You’ll be a great painter some day.”

Not long afterwards I went up to Tokyo. On my forehead were imprinted the two prophecies uttered by half-wit Takeichi: that I would be “fallen for,” and that I would become a great painter.

I wanted to enter an art school, but my father put me into college, intending eventually to make a civil servant out of me. This was the sentence passed on me and I, who have never been able to answer back, dumbly obeyed. At my father’s suggestion I took the college entrance examinations a year early and I passed. By this time I was really quite weary of my high school by the sea and the cherry blossoms. Once in Tokyo I immediately began life in a dormitory, but the squalor and violence appalled me. This time I was in no mood for clowning; I got the doctor to certify that my lungs were affected. I left the dormitory and went to live in my father’s town house in Ueno. Communal living had proved quite impossible for me. It gave me chills just to hear such words as “the ardor of youth” or “youthful pride”: I could not by any stretch of the imagination soak myself in “college spirit.” The classrooms and the dormitory seemed like the dumping grounds of distorted sexual desires, and even my virtually perfected antics were of no use there.

When the Diet was not in session my father spent only a week or two of the month at the house. While he was away there would be just three of us in the rather imposing mansion—an elderly couple who looked after the premises and myself. I frequently cut classes, but not because I felt like sightseeing in Tokyo. (It looks as if I shall end my days without ever having seen the Meiji Shrine, the statue of Kusunoki Masashige or the tombs of the Forty-Seven Ronin.) Instead I would spend whole days in the house reading and painting. When my father was in town I set out for school promptly every morning, although sometimes I actually went to an art class given by a painter in Hongo, and practiced sketching for three or four hours at a time with him. Having been able to escape from the college dormitory I felt rather cynically—this may have been my own bias—that I was now in a rather special position. Even if I attended lectures it was more like an auditor than a regular student. Attending classes became all the more tedious. I had gone through elementary and high schools and was now in college without ever having been able to understand what was meant by school spirit. I never even tried to learn the school songs.

Before long a student at the art class was to initiate me into the mysteries of drink, cigarettes, prostitutes, pawnshops and left-wing thought. A strange combination, but it actually happened that way.

This student’s name was Masao Horiki. He had been born in downtown Tokyo, was six years older than myself, and was a graduate of a private art school. Having no atelier at home, he used to attend the art class I frequented, where he was supposedly continuing his study of oil painting.

One day, when we still barely knew each other by sight—we hadn’t as yet exchanged a word—he suddenly said to me, “Can you lend me five yen?” I was so taken aback that I ended up by giving him the money.

“That’s fine!” he said. “Now for some liquor! You’re my guest!”

I couldn’t very well refuse, and I was dragged off to a café near the school. This marked the beginning of our friendship.

“I’ve been noticing you for quite a while. There! That bashful smile—that’s the special mark of the promising artist. Now, as a pledge of our friendship—bottoms up!” He called one of the waitresses to our table. “Isn’t he a handsome boy? You mustn’t fall for him, now. I’m sorry to say it, but ever since he appeared in our art class, I’ve only been the second handsomest.”

Horiki was swarthy, but his features were regular and, most unusual for an art student, he always wore a neat suit and a conservative necktie. His hair was pomaded and parted in the middle.

The surroundings were unfamiliar to me. I kept folding and unfolding my arms nervously, and my smiles now were really bashful. In the course of drinking two or three glasses of beer, however, I began to feel a strange lightness of liberation.

I started, “I’ve been thinking I’d like to enter a real art school . . .”

“Don’t be silly. They’re useless. Schools are all useless. The teachers who immerse themselves in Nature! The teachers who show profound sympathy for Nature!”

I felt not the least respect for his opinions. I was thinking, “He’s a fool and his paintings are rubbish, but he might be a good person for me to go out with.” For the first time in my life I had met a genuine city good-for-nothing. No less than myself, though in a different way, he was entirely removed from the activities of the human beings of the world. We were of one species if only in that we were both disoriented. At the same time there was a basic difference in us: he operated without being conscious of his farcicality or, for that matter, without giving any recognition to the misery of that farcicality.

I despised him as one fit only for amusement, a man with whom I associated for that sole purpose. At times I even felt ashamed of our friendship. But in the end, as the result of going out with him, even Horiki proved too strong for me.

At first, however, I was convinced that Horiki was a nice fellow, an unusually nice fellow, and despite my habitual dread of human beings I relaxed my guard to the extent of thinking that I had found a fine guide to Tokyo. To tell the truth, when I first came to the city, I was afraid to board a streetcar because of the conductor; I was afraid to enter the Kabuki Theatre for fear of the usherettes standing along the sides of the red-carpeted staircase at the main entrance; I was afraid to go into a restaurant because I was intimidated by the waiters furtively hovering behind me waiting for my plate to be emptied. Most of all I dreaded paying a bill—my awkwardness when I handed over the money after buying something did not arise from any stinginess, but from excessive tension, excessive embarrassment, excessive uneasiness and apprehension. My eyes would swim in my head, and the whole world grow dark before me, so that I felt half out of my mind. There was no question of bargaining—not only did I often forget to pick up my change, but I quite frequently forgot to take home the things I had purchased. It was quite impossible for me to make my way around Tokyo by myself. I had no choice but to spend whole days at a time lolling about the house.

So I turned my money over to Horiki and the two of us went out together. He was a great bargainer and—this perhaps earned him the ranking of expert in pleasure-seeking—he displayed unusual proficiency in spending minimal sums of money with maximum effect. His talents extended to getting wherever he wanted in the shortest possible time without ever having recourse to taxis: he used by turns, as seemed appropriate, the streetcar, the bus and even steam launches in the river. He gave me a practical education: thus, if we stopped in the morning at a certain restaurant on our way home from a prostitute’s and had a bath with our meal, it was a cheap way of experiencing the sensation of living luxuriously. He also explained that beef with rice or skewered chicken—the sort of dishes you can get at a roadside stand—are cheap but nourishing. He guaranteed that nothing got you drunker quicker than brandy. At any rate, as far as the bill was concerned he never caused me to feel the least anxiety or fear.

Another thing which saved me when with Horiki was that he was completely uninterested in what his listener might be thinking, and could pour forth a continuous stream of nonsensical chatter twenty-four hours a day, in whichever direction the eruption of his “passions” led him. (It may have been that his passions consisted in ignoring the feelings of his listener.) His loquacity ensured that there would be absolutely no danger of our falling into uncomfortable silences when our pleasures had fatigued us. In dealings with other people I had always been on my guard lest those frightful silences occur, but since I was naturally slow of speech, I could only stave them off by a desperate recourse to clowning. Now, however, that stupid Horiki (quite without realizing it) was playing the part of the clown, and I was under no obligation to make appropriate answers. It sufficed if I merely let the stream of his words flow through my ears and, once in a while, commented with a smile, “Not really!”

I soon came to understand that drink, tobacco and prostitutes were all excellent means of dissipating (even for a few moments) my dread of human beings. I came even to feel that if I had to sell every last possession to obtain these means of escape, it would be well worth it.

I never could think of prostitutes as human beings or even as women. They seemed more like imbeciles or lunatics. But in their arms I felt absolute security. I could sleep soundly. It was pathetic how utterly devoid of greed they really were. And perhaps because they felt for me something like an affinity for their kind, these prostitutes always showed me a natural friendliness which never became oppressive. Friendliness with no ulterior motive, friendliness stripped of high-pressure salesmanship, for someone who might never come again. Some nights I saw these imbecile, lunatic prostitutes with the halo of Mary.

I went to them to escape from my dread of human beings, to seek a mere night of repose, but in the process of diverting myself with these “kindred” prostitutes, I seem to have acquired before I was aware of it a certain offensive atmosphere which clung inseparably to me. This was a quite unexpected by-product of my experience, but gradually it became more manifest, until Horiki pointed it out, to my amazement and consternation. I had, quite objectively speaking, passed through an apprenticeship in women at the hands of prostitutes, and I had of late become quite adept. The severest apprenticeship in women, they say, is with prostitutes, and that makes it the most effective. The odor of the “lady-killer” had come to permeate me, and women (not only prostitutes) instinctively detected it and flocked to me. This obscene and inglorious atmosphere was the “bonus” I received, and it was apparently far more noticeable than the recuperative effects of my apprenticeship.

Horiki informed me of it half as a compliment, I suppose, but it struck a painful chord in me. I remembered now clumsily written letters from bar girls; and the general’s daughter, a girl of twenty, whose house was next to mine, and who every morning when I went to school was always hovering around her gate, all dressed up for no apparent reason; and the waitress at the steak restaurant who, even when I didn’t say a word . . . ; and the girl at the tobacco shop I patronized who always would put in the package of cigarettes she handed me . . .; and the woman in the seat next to mine at the Kabuki Theatre . . . ; and the time when I was drunk and fell asleep on the streetcar in the middle of the night; and that letter burning with passion that came unexpectedly from a girl relative in the country; and the girl, whoever it was, who left a doll—one she had made herself—for me when I was away. With all of them I had been extremely negative and the stories had gone no further, remaining undeveloped fragments. But it was an undeniable fact, and not just some foolish delusion on my part, that there lingered about me an atmosphere which could send women into sentimental reveries. It caused me a bitterness akin to shame to have this pointed out by someone like Horiki; at the same time I suddenly lost all interest in prostitutes.

To show off his “modernity” (I can’t think of any other reason) Horiki also took me one day to a secret Communist meeting. (I don’t remember exactly what it was called—a “Reading Society,” I think.) A secret Communist meeting may have been for Horiki just one more of the sights of Tokyo. I was introduced to the “comrades” and obliged to buy a pamphlet. I then heard a lecture on Marxian economics delivered by an extraordinarily ugly young man, the guest of honor. Everything he said seemed exceedingly obvious, and undoubtedly true, but I felt sure that something more obscure, more frightening lurked in the hearts of human beings. Greed did not cover it, nor did vanity. Nor was it simply a combination of lust and greed. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt that there was something inexplicable at the bottom of human society which was not reducible to economics. Terrified as I was by this weird element, I assented to materialism as naturally as water finding its own level. But materialism could not free me from my dread of human beings; I could not feel the joy of hope a man experiences when he opens his eyes on young leaves.

Nevertheless I regularly attended the meetings of the Reading Society. I found it uproariously amusing to see my “comrades,” their faces tense as though they were discussing matters of life and death, absorbed in the study of theories so elementary they were on the order of “one and one makes two.” I tried to take some of the strain out of the meetings with my usual antics. That was why, I imagine, the oppressive atmosphere of the group gradually relaxed. I came to be so popular that I was considered indispensable at the meetings. These simple people perhaps fancied that I was just as simple as they—an optimistic, laughter-loving comrade—but if such was their view, I was deceiving them completely. I was not their comrade. Yet I attended every single meeting and performed for them my full repertory of farce.

I did it because I liked to, because those people pleased me—and not necessarily because we were linked by any common affection derived from Marx.

Irrationality. I found the thought faintly pleasurable. Or rather, I felt at ease with it. What frightened me was the logic of the world; in it lay the foretaste of something incalculably powerful. Its mechanism was incomprehensible, and I could not possibly remain closeted in that windowless, bone-chilling room. Though outside lay the sea of irrationality, it was far more agreeable to swim in its waters until presently I drowned.

People talk of “social outcasts.” The words apparently denote the miserable losers of the world, the vicious ones, but I feel as though I have been a “social outcast” from the moment I was born. If ever I meet someone society has designated as an outcast, I invariably feel affection for him, an emotion which carries me away in melting tenderness.

People also talk of a “criminal consciousness.” All my life in this world of human beings I have been tortured by such a consciousness, but it has been my faithful companion, like a wife in poverty, and together, just the two of us, we have indulged in our forlorn pleasures. This, perhaps, has been one of the attitudes in which I have gone on living. People also commonly speak of the “wound of a guilty conscience.” In my case, the wound appeared of itself when I was an infant, and with the passage of time, far from healing it has grown only the deeper, until now it has reached the bone. The agonies I have suffered night after night have made for a hell composed of an infinite diversity of tortures, but—though this is a very strange way to put it—the wound has gradually become dearer to me than my own flesh and blood, and I have thought its pain to be the emotion of the wound as it lived or even its murmur of affection.

For such a person as myself the atmosphere of an underground movement was curiously soothing and agreeable. What appealed to me, in other words, was not so much its basic aims as its personality. The movement served Horiki merely as a pretext for idiotic banter. The only meeting he attended was the one where he introduced me. He gave as his reason for not coming again the stupid joke that Marxists should study not only the productive aspects of society but the consumptive ones. At any rate the consumptive aspects were the only ones we observed together. When I think back on it now, in those days there were Marxists of every variety. Some, like Horiki, called themselves such out of an empty “modernity.” An attraction for its odor of irrationality led others, like myself, to participate in the movement.

I am sure that if the true believers in Marxism had discovered what Horiki and I were really interested in, they would have been furious with us, and driven us out immediately as vile traitors. Strange to say, however, neither Horiki nor I ever came close to being expelled. On the contrary, I felt so much more relaxed in this irrational world than in the world of rational gentlemen that I was able to do what was expected of me in a “sound” manner. I was therefore considered a promising comrade and entrusted with various jobs fraught with a ludicrous degree of secrecy. As a matter of fact, I never once refused any of their jobs. Curiously docile, I performed whatever they asked of me with such unruffled assurance that the “dogs” (that was the name by which the comrades referred to the police) suspected nothing, and I was never so much as picked up for questioning.

Smiling, making others smile, I punctiliously acquitted myself of all their “dangerous missions.” (The people in the movement observed such excessive precautions—they were perpetually prey to life-and-death tensions—as to suggest some clumsy imitation of a detective novel. The missions on which I was employed were really of a stupefying inconsequentiality, but the comrades kept themselves worked up into a state of frantic excitement by incessantly reminding themselves how dangerous these errands were.) I felt at the time that if I should become a party member and got caught, not even the prospect of spending the rest of my life in prison would bother me: it occurred to me that prison life might actually be pleasanter than groaning away my sleepless nights in a hellish dread of the “realities of life” as led by human beings.

Even when my father and I were living in the same house, he was kept so busy receiving guests or going out that sometimes three or four days elapsed without our seeing each other. This, however, did not make his presence any the less oppressive and intimidating. I was just thinking (without as yet daring to propose it) how I would like to leave the house and find lodgings elsewhere, when I learned from our old caretaker that my father apparently intended to sell the house.

Father’s term of office as a member of the Diet would soon expire and—doubtless for many reasons—he seemed to have no intention of standing for election again. Perhaps (I do not pretend to understand my father’s thoughts any better than those of a stranger) he had decided to build a retreat somewhere at home. He never had felt much affection for Tokyo and he must have concluded that it was pointless to maintain a house with servants just for the convenience of a mere college student like myself. At any rate, the house was sold before long and I moved to a gloomy room in an old lodging house in Hongo where I was immediately beset by financial worries.

My father had been giving me a fixed allowance for spending money each month. It would disappear in two or three days’ time, but there had always been cigarettes, liquor and fruit in the house, and other things—books, stationery, and anything in the way of clothing—could be charged at shops in the neighborhood. As long as it was one of the shops my father patronized it made no difference even if I left the place without offering so much as a word of explanation.

Then suddenly I was thrown on my own in lodgings, and had to make ends meet on the allowance doled out each month from home. I was quite at my wit’s end. The allowance disappeared in the customary two or three days, and I would be almost wild with fright and despair. I sent off barrages of telegrams begging for money of my father, my brothers and my sisters by turns. In the wake of the telegrams went letters giving details. (The facts as stated in the letters were absurd fabrications without exception. I thought it a good strategy to make people laugh when asking favors of them.) Under Horiki’s tutelage I also began to frequent the pawnshops. Despite everything I was chronically short of money.

And I was incapable of living all by myself in those lodgings where I didn’t know a soul. It terrified me to sit by myself quietly in my room. I felt frightened, as if I might be set upon or struck by someone at any moment. I would rush outside either to help in the activities of the movement or to make the round of the bars with Horiki, drinking cheap saké wherever we went. I almost completely neglected both my school work and my painting. Then in November of my second year in college I got involved in a love suicide with a married woman older than myself. This changed everything.

I had stopped attending classes and no longer devoted a minute of study to my courses; amazingly enough I seemed nevertheless to be able to give sensible answers in the examinations, and I managed somehow to keep my family under the delusion that all was well. But my poor attendance finally caused the school to send my father a confidential report. My elder brother, acting on behalf of my father, thereupon addressed me a long, sternly phrased letter, warning me to change my ways. More pressing causes of grief to me were my lack of money and the jobs required of me by the movement, which had become so frequent and frenetic that I could no longer perform them half in the spirit of fun. I had been chosen leader of all the Marxist student action groups in the schools of central Tokyo. I raced about here and there “maintaining liaison.” In my raincoat pocket I carried a little knife I had bought for use in the event of an armed uprising. (I remember now that it had a delicate blade hardly strong enough to sharpen a pencil.) My fondest wish was to drink myself into a sound stupor, but I hadn’t the money. Requests for my services came from the party so frequently that I scarcely had time to catch my breath. A sickly body like mine wasn’t up to such frantic activity. My only reason all along for helping the group had been my fascination with its irrationality, and to become so horribly involved was a quite unforeseen consequence of my joke. I felt secretly like telling the group, “This isn’t my business. Why don’t you get a regular party man to do it?” Unable to suppress such reactions of annoyance, I escaped. I escaped, but it gave me no pleasure: I decided to kill myself.

There were at that time three women who showed me special affection. One of them was the landlord’s daughter at my lodging house. When I would come back to my room so exhausted by my errands for the movement that I fell into bed without even bothering to eat, she invariably would visit my room, carrying in her hand a writing pad and a pen.

“Excuse me. It’s so noisy downstairs with my sister and my little brother that I can’t collect my thoughts enough to write a letter.” She would seat herself at my desk and write, sometimes for over an hour.

It would have been so much simpler if I just lay there and pretended not to be aware of her, but the girl’s looks betrayed only too plainly that she wanted me to talk, and though I had not the least desire to utter a word, I would display my usual spirit of passive service: I would turn over on my belly with a grunt and, puffing on a cigarette, begin, “I’m told that some men heat their bath water by burning the love letters they get from women.”

“How horrid! It must be you.”

“As a matter of fact, I have boiled milk that way—and drunk it too.”

“What an honor for the girl! Use mine next time!”

If only she would go, quickly. Letter, indeed! What a transparent pretext that was. I’m sure she was writing the alphabet or the days of the week and the months.

“Show me what you’ve written,” I said, although I wanted desperately to avoid looking at it.

“No, I won’t,” she protested. “Oh, you’re dreadful.” Her joy was indecent enough to chill all feeling for her.

I thought up an errand for her to do. “Sorry to bother you, but would you mind going down to the drugstore and buying me some sleeping tablets? I’m over-exhausted. My face is burning so I can’t sleep. I’m sorry. And about the money . . .”

“That’s all right. Don’t worry about the money.”

She got up happily. I was well aware that it never offends a woman to be asked to do an errand; they are delighted if some man deigns to ask them a favor.

The second girl interested in me was a “comrade,” a student in a teacher’s training college. My activities in the movement obliged me, distasteful as it was, to see her every day. Even after the arrangements for the day’s job had been completed, she doggedly tagged along after me. She bought me presents, seemingly at random, and offered them with the words, “I wish you would think of me as your real sister.”

Wincing at the affectation I would answer, “I do,” and force a sad little smile. I was afraid of angering her, and my only thought was to temporize somehow and put her off. As a result, I spent more and more time dancing attendance on that ugly, disagreeable girl. I let her buy me presents (they were without exception in extraordinarily bad taste and I usually disposed of them immediately to the postman or the grocery boy). I tried to look happy when I was with her, and made her laugh with my jokes. One summer evening she simply wouldn’t leave me. In the hope of persuading her to go I kissed her when we came to a dark place along the street. She became uncontrollably, shamefully excited. She hailed a taxi and took me to the little room the movement secretly rented in an office building. There we spent the whole night in a wild tumult. “What an extraordinary sister I have,” I told myself with a wry smile.

The circumstances were such that I had no way of avoiding the landlord’s daughter or this “comrade.” Every day we bumped into one another; I could not dodge them as I had various other women in the past. Before I knew what was happening, my chronic lack of assurance had driven me willy-nilly into desperate attempts to ingratiate myself with both of them. It was just as if I were bound to them by some ancient debt.

It was at this same period that I became the unexpected beneficiary of the kindness of a waitress in one of those big cafés on the Ginza. After just one meeting I was so tied by gratitude to her that worry and empty fears paralyzed me. I had learned by this time to simulate sufficiently well the audacity required to board a streetcar by myself or to go to the Kabuki Theatre or even to a café without any guidance from Horiki. Inwardly I was no less suspicious than before of the assurance and the violence of human beings, but on the surface I had learned bit by bit the art of meeting people with a straight face—no, that’s not true: I have never been able to meet anyone without an accompaniment of painful smiles, the buffoonery of defeat. What I had acquired was the technique of stammering somehow, almost in a daze, the necessary small talk. Was this a product of my activities on behalf of the movement? Or of women? Or liquor? Perhaps it was chiefly being hard up for cash that perfected this skill.

I felt afraid no matter where I was. I wondered if the best way to obtain some surcease from this relentless feeling might not be to lose myself in the world of some big café where I would be rubbed against by crowds of drunken guests, waitresses and porters. With this thought in my mind, I went one day alone to a café on the Ginza. I had only ten yen on me. I said with a smile to the hostess who sat beside me, “All I’ve got is ten yen. Consider yourself warned.”

“You needn’t worry.” She spoke with a trace of a Kansai accent. It was strange how she calmed my agitation with those few words. No, it was not simply because I was relieved of the necessity of worrying about money. I felt, rather, as if being next to her in itself made it unnecessary to worry.

I drank the liquor. She did not intimidate me, and I felt no obligation to perform my clownish antics for her. I drank in silence, not bothering to hide the taciturnity and gloominess which were my true nature.

She put various appetizers on the table in front of me. “Do you like them?” I shook my head. “Only liquor? I’ll have a drink too.”

It was a cold autumn night. I was waiting at a sushi stall back of the Ginza for Tsuneko (that, as I recall, was her name, but the memory is too blurred for me to be sure: I am the sort of person who can forget even the name of the woman with whom he attempted suicide) to get off from work. The sushi I was eating had nothing to recommend it. Why, when I have forgotten her name, should I be able to remember so clearly how bad the sushi tasted? And I can recall with absolute clarity the close-cropped head of the old man—his face was like a snake’s—wagging from side to side as he made the sushi, trying to create the illusion that he was a real expert. It has happened to me two or three times since that I have seen on the streetcar what seemed to be a familiar face and wondered who it was, only to realize with a start that the person opposite me looked like the old man from the sushi stall. Now, when her name and even her face are fading from my memory, for me to be able to remember that old man’s face so accurately I could draw it, is surely a proof of how bad the sushi was and how it chilled and distressed me. I should add that even when I have been taken to restaurants famous for sushi I have never enjoyed it much.

Tsuneko was living in a room she rented on the second floor of a carpenter’s house. I lay on the floor sipping tea, propping my cheek with one hand as if I had a horrible toothache. I took no pains to hide my habitual gloom. Oddly enough, she seemed to like seeing me lie there that way. She gave me the impression of standing completely isolated; an icy storm whipped around her, leaving only dead leaves careening wildly down.

As we lay there together, she told me that she was two years older than I, and that she came from Hiroshima. “I’ve got a husband, you know. He used to be a barber in Hiroshima, but we ran away to Tokyo together at the end of last year. My husband couldn’t find a decent job in Tokyo. The next thing I knew he was picked up for swindling someone, and now he’s in jail. I’ve been going to the prison every day, but beginning tomorrow I’m not going any more.” She rambled on, but I have never been able to get interested when women talk about themselves. It may be because women are so inept at telling a story (that is, because they place the emphasis in the wrong places), or for some other reason. In any case, I have always turned them a deaf ear.

“I feel so unhappy.”

I am sure that this one phrase whispered to me would arouse my sympathy more than the longest, most painstaking account of a woman’s life. It amazes and astonishes me that I have never once heard a woman make this simple statement. This woman did not say, “I feel so unhappy” in so many words, but something like a silent current of misery an inch wide flowed over the surface of her body. When I lay next to her my body was enveloped in her current, which mingled with my own harsher current of gloom like a “withered leaf settling to rest on the stones at the bottom of a pool.” I had freed myself from fear and uneasiness.

It was entirely different from the feeling of being able to sleep soundly which I had experienced in the arms of those idiot-prostitutes (for one thing, the prostitutes were cheerful); the night I spent with that criminal’s wife was for me a night of liberation and happiness. (The use of so bold a word, affirmatively, without hesitation, will not, I imagine, recur in these notebooks.)

But it lasted only one night. In the morning, when I woke and got out of bed, I was again the shallow poseur of a clown. The weak fear happiness itself. They can harm themselves on cotton wool. Sometimes they are wounded even by happiness. I was impatient to leave her while things still stood the same, before I got wounded, and I spread my usual smokescreen of farce.

“They say that love flies out the window when poverty comes in the door, but people generally get the sense backwards. It doesn’t mean that when a man’s money runs out he’s shaken off by women. When he runs out of money, he naturally is in the dumps. He’s no good for anything. The strength goes out of his laugh, he becomes strangely soured. Finally, in desperation, he shakes off the woman. The proverb means that when a man becomes half-mad, he will shake and shake and shake until he’s free of a woman. You’ll find that explanation given in the Kanazawa Dictionary, more’s the pity. It isn’t too hard for me to understand that feeling myself!”

I remember making Tsuneko laugh with just such stupid remarks. I was trying to get away quickly that morning, without so much as washing my face, for I was sure that to stay any longer would be useless and dangerous. Then I came out with that crazy pronouncement on “love flying out the window,” which was later to produce unexpected complications.

I didn’t meet my benefactor of that night again for a whole month. After leaving her my happiness grew fainter every day that went by. It frightened me even that I had accepted a moment’s kindness: I felt I had imposed horrible bonds on myself. Gradually even the mundane fact that Tsuneko had paid the bill at the café began to weigh on me, and I felt as though she was just another threatening woman, like the girl at my lodging house, or the girl from the teacher’s training college. Even at the distance which separated us, Tsuneko intimidated me constantly. Besides, I was intolerably afraid that if I met again a woman I had once slept with, I might suddenly burst into a flaming rage. It was my nature to be very timid about meeting people anyway, and so I finally chose the expedient of keeping a safe distance from the Ginza. This timidity of nature was no trickery on my part. Women do not bring to bear so much as a particle of connection between what they do after going to bed and what they do on rising in the morning; they go on living with their world successfully divided in two, as if total oblivion had intervened. My trouble was that I could not yet successfully cope with this extraordinary phenomenon.

At the end of November I went drinking with Horiki at a cheap bar in Kanda. We had no sooner staggered out of that bar than my evil companion began to insist that we continue our drinking somewhere else. We had already run out of money, but he kept badgering me.

Finally—and this was because I was drunker and bolder than usual—I said, “All right. I’ll take you to the land of dreams. Don’t be surprised at what you see. Wine, women and song . . .”

“You mean a café?”

“I do.”

“Let’s go!” It happened just as simply as that. The two of us got on a streetcar. Horiki said in high spirits, “I’m starved for a woman tonight. Is it all right to kiss the hostess?”

I was not particularly fond of Horiki when he played the drunk that way. Horiki knew it, and he deliberately labored the point. “All right? I’m going to kiss her. I’m going to kiss whichever hostess sits next to me. All right?”

“It won’t make any difference, I suppose.”

“Thanks! I’m starved for a woman.”

We got off at the Ginza and walked into the café of “wine, women and song.” I was virtually without a penny, and my only hope was Tsuneko. Horiki and I sat down at a vacant booth facing each other. Tsuneko and another hostess immediately hurried over. The other girl sat next to me, and Tsuneko plopped herself down beside Horiki. I was taken aback: Tsuneko was going to be kissed in another few minutes.

It wasn’t that I regretted losing her. I have never had the faintest craving for possessions. Once in a while, it is true, I have experienced a vague sense of regret at losing something, but never strongly enough to affirm positively or to contest with others my rights of possession. This was so true of me that some years later I even watched in silence when my own wife was violated.

I have tried insofar as possible to avoid getting involved in the sordid complications of human beings. I have been afraid of being sucked down into their bottomless whirlpool. Tsuneko and I were lovers of just one night. She did not belong to me. It was unlikely that I would pretend to so imperious an emotion as “regret.” And yet I was shocked.

It was because I felt sorry for Tsuneko, sorry that she should be obliged to accept Horiki’s savage kisses while I watched. Once she had been defiled by Horiki she would no doubt have to leave me. But my ardor was not positive enough for me to stop Tsuneko. I experienced an instant of shock at her unhappiness; I thought, “It’s all over now.” Then, the next moment, I meekly, helplessly resigned myself. I looked from Horiki to Tsuneko. I grinned.

But the situation took an unexpected turn, one very much for the worse.

“I’ve had enough,” Horiki said with a scowl. “Not even a lecher like myself can kiss a woman who looks so poverty-stricken.”

He folded his arms and stared, seemingly in utter disgust, at Tsuneko. He forced a smile.

“Some liquor. I haven’t got any money.” I spoke under my breath to Tsuneko. I felt I wanted to drink till I drowned in it. Tsuneko was in the eyes of the world unworthy even of a drunkard’s kiss, a wretched woman who smelled of poverty. Astonishingly, incredibly enough, this realization struck me with the force of a thunderbolt. I drank more that night than ever before in my life, more . . . more, my eyes swam with drink, and every time Tsuneko and I looked in each other’s face, we gave a pathetic little smile. Yes, just as Horiki had said, she really was a tired, poverty-stricken woman and nothing more. But this thought itself was accompanied by a welling-up of a feeling of comradeship for this fellow-sufferer from poverty. (The clash between rich and poor is a hackneyed enough subject, but I am now convinced that it really is one of the eternal themes of drama.) I felt pity for Tsuneko; for the first time in my life I was conscious of a positive (if feeble) movement of love in my heart. I vomited. I passed out. This was also the first time I had ever drunk so much as to lose consciousness.

When I woke Tsuneko was sitting by my pillow. I had been sleeping in her room on the second floor of the carpenter’s house. “I thought you were joking when you told me that love flew out the window when poverty came in the door. Were you serious? You didn’t come any more. What a complicated business it is, love and poverty. Suppose I work for you? Wouldn’t that be all right?”

“No, it wouldn’t.”

She lay down beside me. Towards dawn she pronounced for the first time the word “death.” She too seemed to be weary beyond endurance of the task of being a human being; and when I reflected on my dread of the world and its bothersomeness, on money, the movement, women, my studies, it seemed impossible that I could go on living. I consented easily to her proposal.

Nevertheless I was still unable to persuade myself fully of the reality of this resolution to die. Somehow there lurked an element of make-believe.

The two of us spent that morning wandering around Asakusa. We went into a lunch stand and drank a glass of milk.

She said, “You pay this time.”

I stood up, took out my wallet and opened it. Three copper coins. It was less shame than horror that assaulted me at that moment. I suddenly saw before my eyes my room in the lodging house, absolutely empty save for my school uniform and the bedding—a bleak cell devoid of any object which might be pawned. My only other possessions were the kimono and coat I was wearing. These were the hard facts. I perceived with clarity that I could not go on living.

As I stood there hesitating, she got up and looked inside my wallet. “Is that all you have?”

Her voice was innocent, but it cut me to the quick. It was painful as only the voice of the first woman I had ever loved could be painful. “Is that all?” No, even that suggested more money than I had—three copper coins don’t count as money at all. This was a humiliation more strange than any I had tasted before, a humiliation I could not live with. I suppose I had still not managed to extricate myself from the part of the rich man’s son. It was then I myself determined, this time as a reality, to kill myself.

We threw ourselves into the sea at Kamakura that night. She untied her sash, saying she had borrowed it from a friend at the café, and left it folded neatly on a rock. I removed my coat and put it in the same spot. We entered the water together.

She died. I was saved.

The incident was treated rather prominently in the press, no doubt because I was a college student. My father’s name also had some news value.

I was confined in a hospital on the coast. A relative came from home to see me and take care of necessary arrangements. Before he left he informed me that my father and all the rest of my family were so enraged that I might easily be disowned once and for all. Such matters did not concern me; I thought instead of the dead Tsuneko, and, longing for her, I wept. Of all the people I had ever known, that miserable Tsuneko really was the only one I loved.

A long letter which consisted of a string of fifty stanzas came from the girl at my lodging house. Fifty stanzas, each one beginning with the incredible words, “Please live on for me.” The nurses used to visit my sickroom, laughing gaily all the time, and some would squeeze my hand when they left.

They discovered at the hospital that my left lung was affected. This was most fortunate for me: when, not long afterwards, I was taken from the hospital to the police station, charged with having been the accomplice to a suicide, I was treated as a sick man by the police, and quartered not with the criminals but in a special custody room.

Late that night the old policeman standing night duty in the room next to mine softly opened the door. “Hey,” he called to me, “you must be cold. Come here, next to the fire.”

I walked into his room, sat on a chair, and warmed myself by the fire. I feigned an air of utter dejection.

“You miss her, don’t you?”

“Yes.” I answered in a particularly faint and faraway voice.

“That’s human nature, I guess.” His manner had become increasingly self-important. “Where was it you first took up with this woman?” The question was weighted with an authority almost indistinguishable from that of a judge. My jailor, despising me as a mere child who wouldn’t know the difference, acted exactly as if he were charged with the investigation. No doubt he was secretly hoping to while away the long autumn evening by extracting from me a confession in the nature of a pornographic story. I guessed his intent at once, and it was all I could do to restrain the impulse to burst out laughing in his face. I knew that I had the right to refuse to answer any queries put me by the policeman in an “informal interrogation” of this sort, but in order to lend some interest to the long night ahead, I cloaked myself in a kind of simple sincerity, as if I firmly, unquestioningly believed that this policeman was responsible for investigating me, and that the degree of severity of my punishment depended solely on his decision. I made up a confession absurd enough to satisfy—more or less—his prurient curiosity.

“Hmmm. I’ve got a pretty good idea now. We always take it into consideration when a prisoner answers everything honestly.”

“Thank you very much. I hope you will do what you can to help me.”

My performance was all but inspired—a great performance which brought me no benefit whatsoever.

In the morning I was called before the police chief. This time it was the real examination.

As soon as I opened the door and entered his office, the police chief said, “There’s a handsome lad for you! It wasn’t your fault, I can see. Your mother’s to blame for having brought such a handsome boy into the world.”

He was still young, a dark-complexioned man with something about him which suggested a university education. His words caught me off-guard, and made me as wretched as if I had been born deformed, with a red macula covering half my face.

The examination conducted by this athletic-looking police chief was simple and to the point, a wo