Tuesday 23 April 2019

SCHOOLGIRL by Osamu Dazai

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Dazai story. My daughter has read a few of his books, and when she decided to thin out her bookshelves, I took this one.

I was curious, but wasn't sure if I would like it because the author's style and life sounded so bleak. That's why I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading and couldn't put it down.

The writing is so nice, and although this story was written and set during the first half of the 20th century, so much of what happens still resonates today. For that alone, I thought this was great.

This is a line that really stood out to me: "A mere smile can determine a woman's fate." because it captures so much of what it means to be a woman.

Essentially, this novella is the stream of consciousness of one schoolgirl's day. From the moment she wakes up, her mind is full of contradictory thoughts. As she gets on with her day, we become passengers and share every strange, weird, wonderful and hateful thought that enters her mind. We experience what she does, and read along as she examines everything that fills her mind, judges everyone she crosses paths with, and works through how she feels about life in general.

She's still suffering through the grief of losing her father, and mourns the woman her mother has become since he died. Not to mention how she struggles with growing up. She hates her body for betraying her, for changing without her being able to stop it. Her childhood is full of nice and comfortable memories, therefore she wishes she could remain a child forever, because getting older means she's losing control of her outer self. She even mentions how her body doesn't match her mind.

I have to admit that she can be a total bitch at times, exhibits some typical internalised-misogynistic qualities that got on my nerves, and I hated how she treated her dogs... but this is another reason why this novella is simply brilliant. The whole story is filled with the many random thoughts we all face and work through every single day. There are the ones we vocalise, the ones we keep to ourselves, and the wicked things we pretend never entered our minds.

On the surface, this novella might be about one girl's day--from beginning to end--but what really matters is the unfiltered thoughts and moods she goes through and how she deals with them. At the end of the day she wants everyone to think she's a good girl, but internally she's the complete opposite. She judges everyone she meets, is super critical and has a real problem with her self image.

This is such a clever story. Not just because of the way it was written. Not just because it was written by a man who is able to portray a girl so well. But because an endless flow of thoughts is something we can all understand and totally relate to. It's one of the things that makes us human.

And that leads me to this very cool quote:

"The present moment is interesting to me. Now, now, now--even while you try to pin down an instant, it flies off into the distance, and a new 'now' arrives."

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