(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In No Longer Human, the first-person narrator, Yozo, traces his development and experiences from childhood through his twenty-seventh year. Using the device of a journal kept by the narrator which has been recovered and is being read by someone else, the author has made this book a revelation of his innermost self and a confession of his increasing alienation from society. In fact, the book is highly autobiographical and belongs to the “I novel” genre, a style popular in Japan.

Yozo learns very early as a child that he is apparently quite different from the people around him, and he consequently fears these people. Yet he wants to be accepted, so by constantly playing the role of clown, he makes himself popular. He observes in general that people live in mutual distrust and are insincere. On the way home from a political rally sponsored by his father, he overhears family friends saying how idiotic the meeting was; these same friends then congratulate his father on a “wonderful meeting.”

After going away to high school, Yozo learns that his clowning and posturing are easier now that he is away from family and familiars. He discovers that he loves painting and wants to make it his profession. His art parallels his public and private selves: He paints standard “pretty pictures” for others to see and odd self-portraits, which he calls “ghost pictures,” for his private amusement. While in high school, he also discovers that he gets along better with women and finds them easier to clown for, even though he finds them rather difficult to understand.

Although Yozo wants to go to art school, his father makes him go to college. There, Yozo meets Horiki, who introduces him to the world of drinking, smoking, and prostitution. Yozo finds Horiki’s friendship (such as it is)...

(The entire section is 747 words.)