人間失格 No Longer Human 太宰治 ドナルド・キーン訳 第一章


No Longer Human

chapter 1

The First Notebook

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. 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 J 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 cat 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 cat, 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 o w n 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, 111 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 no w 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, crudest 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 folly 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.

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