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Setting Sun (New Directions Book) Paperback – 1 Feb 1968

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Product details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Revised edition (1 Feb. 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811200329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200325
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 0.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 482,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Setting Sun This powerful novel of a nation in social and moral crisis was first published by New Directions in 1956. Full description

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Mother uttered a faint cry. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 April 1999
Format: Paperback
Excellent. The novel adapts fundamental settings from ChekhovÕs The Cherry Orchard. This is not the first time Dazai based his work on existing literature Ð inc his fine comical adaptation of Hamlet. The main characterÕs mother is especially like Ranyevskaia Ð whose gullible nature leaves her unable to grasp the reality and abandons her to live within the nostalgia.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Jun. 1997
Format: Paperback
This may be called a "Japanese" novel, in that it follows Japanese social and literary precepts. Things are as society dictates, and for that it is a fascinating examination of Japan in flux, after running headlong into the Western world. However, it stands second to Dazai's No Longer Human, which shines as a true example of innermost Japanese thought and reaction to the modern world. For those that have some knowledge of the language and culture, Setting Sun would be tatemae, but No Longer Human is honne.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By on 11 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is probably way too intellectual for me. Its like one of those books you dont quite "get" until you've read it hundreds of times. Subtlety and beauty are the order of things, yet darker symbolism and meaning (including the age old Japanese/shakespearan method of using nature to symbolise events) are also used to add depth to already deeper than deep meaning. The simplicity of this novel makes it almost perfect, yet I feel there is something lacking in the writing...a certain love, a certain something, which is hinted at yet never fully explored.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Much less than the whole of life... 15 Sept. 2005
By Robert Bezimienny - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the early twentieth century middle Europe hosted a spate of suicides, predominantly educated young men, who found the world tiresome by the judgement of their romantic ideals. Fin de siecle Vienna saw them dropping off like flies. This crazed romanticism informs Dazai's work and, apparently, his life, where he too fell victim to the lure of self destruction.


The surface objectivity gained by choosing a woman as narrator is an interesting technique. Dazai here installs a rather crude counter to his, and the character Naoji's, dissolution, namely Kazuko's desire to bear a child. It is simplistic to reduce the novel's core to the notion of renewal, but it does gather poignancy when considered against the backdrop of a Japan recently defeated, if not humiliated, in the World War. Perhaps the plea for a child is at once an admission that the then current generation has been left without a foundation from which to hope, and that only time, and a new generation, could begin a true reconstruction. The child, rather than being a true symbol of life, is almost mere procrastination - a resignation on the part of the parental generation that they are impotent in the face of bewildering problems. For Kazuko the child is equivalent to Naijo's opiates.


The influence of European literature is strong. Donald Keene, the translator, mentions Proust and Dostoevsky in his introduction, but the pervasive use of illness for more than literal purposes recalls Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain". There are several overt references to Nietzsche, with his diagnoses of society's ills, and the characters themselves read Marx and other socialist writings. The effect here, however, is culturally specific, and the attitudes to death embodied in the novel do instruct as to how Japanese culture contrasts with the West.


Dazai does create memorable characters. Keene offers that they all contain fragments of the author, and Dazai's biography reinforces this rather obvious point. The rather histrionic interpretation of love which all the characters espouse leads, inevitably, to an equally histrionic version of despair. All this means that as a reader one is asked to bear witness to the blackest of soap operas. Perhaps, while reading, one should have playing the last songs in Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin, or some of Hugo Wolf's more dirgelike lieder. And, on finishing the last page, it might be best to go for a long walk, talk to a friend, and share a good meal.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Dazai at His Best 6 Nov. 2000
By George Sipos - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Setting Sun is no longer an unknown novel for the Western reader, but one should keep in mind that Shayou is, even today, one of the most popular Japanese novels. Basically a portrait of a society in an acute need for change, The Setting Sun is both a reflection of Dazai's period of Marxist activism and, probably, the most interesting illustration of the 'shishousetsu' (the I novel). Just like those in No Longer Human (Ningen shikkaku), the characters in The Setting Sun are Dazai's images of hiw own self. Kazuko, the revolted self, the one waiting for the revolution and for the violent change of the society, decided to defide the rules (she will choose to have a baby, even if not married - a perfectly normal thing nowadays, but not in the Japanese society, back in the 40's), Naoji, her brother, the defeated self, who will choose the suicide, exactly as Dazai himself will do and, of course, Uehara, the writer, the type of the Dazaisesque artist. A novel about a family (meant to represent the whole society, in the light of Lenin's idea about the family being 'the basic cell of the society' - after all, Dazai must have read some of Lenin's works while activ in the communist underground movement, in the 30's) which comes to its extinction. A masterpiece on Dazai's idea of revolte and revolution.
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Disturbing, yet Brilliant 10 Sept. 2000
By Eddie Landsberg - Published on
Format: Paperback
Osamu Dazai's greatest sin was honesty, and an equal love of decadence mixed with self loathing. He was a genius, a rebel, a drug addict, a rebel of aristocratic means who disgraced his family often through seedy, sometimes politically verbotten company... a man deeply disturbed (his hobby seemed to be to be attempting suicide, often with his lovers, and until the last effort, in which he drowned himself, were only half succesful... literally.) His two great novels reflected his troubles and innermost thoughts... psychologically, they are dark, disturbing, yet enlightening. Culturally, the self indulgence of such dialogue was equally shocking, though some have suggested that Dazai's outer word reflects the inner most soul of the Japanese. - - I spent four years in Japan, often traveling through the urban landscape of Tokyo, often taking the train to work passing over the banks of the same river where his body washed up (shortly after the war on his 39th birthday), and though 50 years after the fact, in time began to gain an even deeper appreciation for his writings -- however, this is not a mere "Japanese" novel. Osamu Dazai, afterall, was the Japanese Albert Camus - - whimsical as well, and who painted pictures with words as greatly as Akira Kurasawa painted pictures on the screen. Though a tragic novel, it is absorbing, and so well refreshing, rather than leaving one feeling disgusted, one thinks hard, is angered, then finally may feel awakened.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Gently slowed me down. 29 Dec. 2001
By Neyko - Published on
Format: Paperback
Dazai's style is so different from that of western writers that I at first felt annoyed with his style. Having read Dower's Embracing Defeat and seeing the anime Grave of the Fireflies, I started to develop an appreciaiton of the state of post World War II Japan. The common Japanese were zombified and trying to make sense of the new order. The far left was becoming appealing as were various cults.
Dazai tells the story of a 30 year old woman from the upper class who has lost everything. She moves with her ailing mother and opium addicted brother to the country side where she falls in love with a novelist who is a friend of here brothers and married.
The pace of the story and lack of a final climax frustrated me at times, but the challenge of adjusting to the novel made a more intimate impression on me.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding view of Post WWII Japan! 20 April 2007
By Richard Forbus - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Setting Sun" provides a view of post-war Japan that few can portray as effectively as Osamu Dazai can. I had not previously read his books, but I came upon this one in conjunction with a college assignment. The emotions and essence of post war Japan that Osamu manages to bring to readers some 60 years later is amazing. The feeling of broken will and hopelessness is depressing, yet intriguing at the same time.

The story has profound detail and gives the reader a very real sense of living in post-war Japan. In Tokyo, there is a sense of social disarray, evidenced by widespread alcoholism and a seemingly chronic disinterest in what tomorrow will bring. Overall, while the story is excellent, it was very depressing. If in fact the nation was like this post-war, it must have been very difficult for those living at the time.

The main character, Kazuko, struggles through many issues in the book; loyalty to family, a family that is broken and dying, literally and figuratively, a feeling of inadequacy, depression, despondency, hopelessness, and loneliness. Post-war Japan through her eyes is a trip I would recommend if you are interested in history in Japan, or really history in general.
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