Monday, November 28, 2011

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai: Melancholic Contemplation

Arriving all the way from USA, I had a tiny traveler plop down right in front of my desk.

The moment I held the book, I immediately focused long and hard on the book cover. I've had my small share of contemporary Japanese novels and each had very interesting designs, but not one is as gently arresting as this Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai published by One Peace Books. Soft yet stark. I'm not one to judge a book by its cover, but it certainly is a good way to hold the interest of the readers.

A closer look at the cover would remind one of things that are "beautiful in its simplicity". Everybody knows the Japanese aesthetics, a "set of ancient ideals that include wabi (transient and stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural patina and aging), and yûgen (profound grace and subtlety).*" Reflecting at these values, it's wonderful to observe how the cover follows the flow of wabi and yugen, isn't it?

But a book should offer more than just what meets the eye. Here is the book blurb: 

"The novella that first propelled Dazai into the literary elite of post war Japan. Essentially the start of Dazai's career, Schoolgirl gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language. Now it illuminates the prevalent societal structures of a lost time, as well as the struggle of the individual against them - a them that occupied Dazai's life both personally and professionally."

Contemporary Reader's Book Preview for Schoolgirl

The book, at the first few chapters that I read, is wonderfully compelling and had underlying tones of  melancholia. It's almost the same kind of sadness you could feel on a Banana Yoshimoto novella, though the narration of this Dazai book has a sad, young voice where a Yoshimoto is the distant but resonating voice of pure loneliness. 

There are several lines in the pages that hit me like a kind, self-effacing bunch of bricks, one being:

(highlight is mine.)

I used to classify myself as a morning person. And I do believe that somehow I am still one if I could just get out the nagging anxiety of the magnitude of things I have to do throughout the day and the rest of the night until I can sleep and shut the world out again. 

"I never have confidence in the mornings," the Schoolgirl novel seems to mock me now. I wake up with more than just a greasy face, I wake up with a sense of dread about how... generally dreadful I look. I whine in my head about the unfairness of a company dress code that prevents me from donning on comfortable layers of huge shirts and denim pants all the time so I don't have to wear clothes that never seem to fit me psychologically.

On a happier quote:

I had this stint once where I was so into English royalty, the Victorian - Edwardian - Regency periods, and then I discovered a small path of French History in the era of Rococo and I was in love. With the curvature, golden frills, bouffant gowns, and everything that is delicate and lovely and printed royal floral walls, draperies and wing-back chairs. You name it, I love it. But there is so much art amidst all that beauty in Rococo. There is not one single flower that is not chiseled or not painted by hand, weaved and sewn to perfection. Despite what others may think as ostentation, everything in the Rococo designs I personally believe stands for the perfect virtue of beauty. "Which is why I love rococo."

I am well on the way to finishing the book, it's a small book as from what you can see below. It doesn't take too much space on my bag, so it's always on hand when I find a quieter nook and have some time to read.

I'm enjoying Schoolgirl one page at a time :) It's nice to savor the good things in life, and also Dolcetto wafer rolls:

Full review as soon as I finish! Check it out soon!
Thanks for reading.


  1. pahiram beh ehehhehe... btw i'm following your beauty blog also. hjehehe

  2. hi go to viet nam