Friday, December 2, 2016

Study Guide: Dazai Osamu “Run, Melos” (1940)

Morrison
Study Guide: Dazai Osamu “Run, Melos” (1940)

Original: 走れメロス(1940)
Translation: “Run, Melos” (tr. McCarthy 1988; purchase here)

Dazai Osamu 太宰治 (1909-1948): Dazai Osamu, whose real name was Tsushima Shūji, was born in the town of Kanagi in Aomori Prefecture, where his father was an important landowner. Dazai was one of eleven children in a large extended family; his mother’s weak constitution caused him to be placed in the care of an aunt whom Dazai for a long time assumed was his mother. He had excellent grades in primary school and junior high school, when he began to dream of becoming a writer. His high school years seem to have been less happy, but he and some friends put out a little magazine for which he regularly wrote stories. Dazai left for Tokyo in 1930 to study in the French Literature department at the University of Tokyo. He also took part in some relatively innocuous illegal activities on behalf of the Communist Party. Also in 1930, Dazai made the first of several attempts at a lovers’ suicide (he had already made a solitary suicide attempt in 1929). In November of that year, he and a Ginza bar hostess tried to drown themselves in the ocean at Kamakura, but while the woman died Dazai was rescued by a fishing boat, leaving Dazai with a strong sense of guilt. In 1935, after being forced to leave Tokyo University and failing a test for employment, Dazai tried to hang himself, but this attempt also proved unsuccessful. In 1937, after Dazai’s discovery that his wife had had previous lovers, they both took sleeping medicine, but neither one died. Given this personal turmoil, it is small wonder that suicide became a major motif in Dazai’s novels. Stories written during this period include “Dōke no hana” (The Flowers of Buffoonery, 1935), “Gyakkō” (Against the Current, 1935), “Kyōgen no kami” (The God of Farce, 1936), and those published in his 1936 collection Bannen (Declining Years). In 1939, Dazai married Ishihara Michiko, to whom he was introduced by his mentor Ibuse Masuji, and entered a new period in his life. During this time, he freed himself from his self-appointed task of serving as a model of vice and achieved a harmony of sorts between his career as a writer and his real life. His collection Fugaku hyakkei (The Hundred Views of Fuji, 1939) was one major outcome. Wartime works included Udaijin Sanetomo (Minister of the Right Sanetomo, 1943), Tsugaru (1944), Pandora no hako (Pandora’s Box, 1945-46), and the delightful Otogizōshi (Fairy Tales, 1945). After the war, Dazai wrote numerous stories set in the postwar milieu. Chief among these were Bion no tsuma (Villon’s Wife, 1947), Shayō (The Setting Sun, 1947), and Dazai’s last novel, Ningen shikkaku (No Longer Human, 1948). The postwar period was a dark time for Dazai, the central theme of his works seeming to become the need to pass judgment on the ugly side of the Japanese character and his own egoism. This led him back to suicidal thoughts, and on June 13, 1948, he finally succeeded in drowning himself in the Tamagawa Canal with yet another young woman, leaving behind an unfinished novel titled (in English) Goodbye. Dazai’s career as a professional novelist thus spanned only the years from 1933 to 1948. Even so, his works continue to be enormously popular with young readers in particular, perhaps because of Dazai’s overriding concern with the search for meaning in life and the nature of truth in human affairs. (Mark Jewel, jlit.net)

Study Questions

1.      Discuss the style/mode of narration (i.e., point of view, focalization, pacing, objective/subjective methods, use of interior monologue, use of metaphors/similes, linear or non-linear plot, use of both “showing” and “telling,” etc.). Cite specific examples in your answers.

2.      Describe the setting. In what sort of world is the story set? Why do you think Dazai chose to rewrite this ancient legend? Was he trying to tell us something about his contemporary world? Explain.

3.      Identity and describe each of the characters. What abstract ideas/ideals does each represent? Explain.

4.      Write a one-paragraph summary of the story in your own words. Include only constitutive events.

5.      What is/are the main conflict(s)/theme(s) in the story? (Hint: What is the story trying to tell us about good/evil, righteousness, faith, love, trust, loyalty, nihilism, doubt, virtue ethics, etc.?)

6.      Examine the relationship between Dazai’s story and Friedrich Schiller’s poem (which is based on the Greek legend of Damon and Pythias; see below). What is “Dazai-esque” about Dazai’s version? What elements does he add that are not found in earlier versions? What does he omit?


“The Hostage” (Die Bürgschaft, 1799)
by Friedrich Schiller

Damon, with a dagger in his robe,
Crept up to Dionysius, the tyrant;
Whose attendants fell in slumber.
“What do you seek with that dagger? Speak!”
The angry voice challenged him.
“To free the city from the tyrant!”
“That you will answer upon the cross.”

“I am,” he rejoined, “prepared to die
And ask not for my life,
But grant me mercy,
I beseech you for three days’ time,
Until my sister is wed to her husband,
I leave you my friend as hostage,
Should I flee, you may strangle him.”

Then the king smiled with an angry mien
And after brief deliberation spoke:
“I’ll grant you three days.
But know this! If they pass by, this deadline,
Without your return to me,
Then he will be impaled in your stead,
Though the penalty be intended for you.”

So he went to his friend: “The king ordains,
That I atone with my life upon the cross
For my offending attempt,
Though he grants me three days’ time,
That I may see my sister married,
Provided that you stand as my guarantor
Until I come to dissolve the bond.”

And silently the true friend embraced him
And he delivered himself up to the tyrant,
As his friend departed.
And before the third dawn rose,
He had quickly united his sister with her betrothed,
And rushed home with a burdened soul,
In order not to miss the deadline.

Then great rains ceaselessly poured,
Torrents coursed down from the mountains,
The creeks and streams swelled
And so he came with his walking stick to the shore
And found the bridge swept away by
The thundering, rampaging waters crushing
The collapsing arches of the vault.

Irreconcilable, he wandered at the water’s edge
As far as he searched and peered
His voice, shouting, sending
Found no voice echoing from the safer shore
Which would bring him to the hoped-for land,
No boatsman would launch his ferry
And the wild stream became like a sea.

He sank to the shore and wept and cried,
Raising his hands to Zeus:
“Hold back the rage of these waters!
The hours rush by, the sun stands
Now at midday, and when it sets
If I cannot reach the city,
Then my friend will perish in my stead!”

Still the water’s fury rises from anew,
One wave rises after the next,
One hour passes after the next,
Anxiety at last presses him to a courageous act,
And he flings himself into the surging flood
Seizing the current with his powerful arms,
And a God takes pity upon him.

He reaches the other shore and hastens forth,
Thanking the God his savior,
When out of the darkened lair of the forest
Emerged a horde of robbers,
Blocking his way, and sensing murder
Preventing him in his haste
With a cudgel menacingly swung.

“What do you want?” he cried, paled by fear,
“I have nothing to give but my life,
And that I owe the king!”
And with that he snatched the club from the closest of the band,
“For the sake of my friend, have mercy!”
And with three powerful blows he struck,
Dealing death, as the others fled.

And the sun radiates its glowing fire,
He collapses sinking his knee
Drained by relentless exertion
“You have saved me mercifully from the hand of robbers,
From the flood you have rescued me to the holy land,
To what end?—that here I should perish miserably
Leaving the friend who loves me to die!”

But listen! Then it bubbled forth, silver-clear,
Close by a trickling sound,
And quietly he paused to listen,
And from the rocks, evanescent quickly
Sprang forth murmuring a living source,
And joyously it stooped down
Bringing refreshment to the burning limbs.

And the sun cut through the green branches
Painting gigantic shadows upon the
Dazzling mats of the trees,
And two travelers he espied upon the road,
Scurrying fleet of foot past him,
And then he heard them utter the words:
“Now he will be crucified!”

Despair put wings upon his feet,
The woes tormented him -
There, reflected in the evening sun,
From far, the battlements of Syracuse.
And Philostratus approached him,
The trustworth guardian of the house,
He understands in horror the ruler.

“Turn back! You can’t save your friend.
Save your own life!
He will suffer death, no matter.
From hour to hour he awaits
Your return with an aspirant soul
Your bold faith will not spare
Him the tyrant’s contempt.”

“It is too late, no savior will now
Appear welcome to him,
Yet death may unite me with my friend.
The tyrant will not be able to boast that
One friend failed in his duty to the other,
He will have a double sacrifice
And will witness love and fidelity.”

As the sun sets, he stands at the gate
And sees the cross already raised,
Surrounded by a gawking crowd,
His friend already being hoisted by a cord,
And powerfully he breaks through the thick crowd:
“Executioner, strangle me!” he shouts,
“I am here, the one for whom he stands hostage!”

And shock seized the assembled crowd,
As the two held each other in their arms,
Crying for pain and joy.
No eye was without tears,
And the wondrous tale is relayed to the king,
Who, feeling a human stirring,
Quickly had them brought before the throne.

He gazed upon them long in amazement,
And then spoke: “You have succeeded,
You have turned my heart,
In truth, fidelity is no idle delusion,
So accept me also as your friend,
I would be – grant me this request –
The third in your band!”

Translated by Scott Horton

「人質」、フリードリヒ・シラー

暴君ディオニュソス王にメロスは
忍び寄った、短剣を衣服に隠して。
メロスを捕吏たちが縛り上げた。
「お前はその短剣で何をしようとしたのだ、話せ!」
ディオニュソス王にその怒れる男は陰鬱に答えた。
「この町を暴君から解放しようとしたのだ!」
「そのことをお前に十字架上で後悔させてやろう。」

「俺は」とメロスは話す。「死ぬ準備は出来ている。
命乞いをしようとは思わん。
しかし、お前が俺に慈悲を垂れようというのであれば、
三日間待ってくれ、
俺が妹を許婚と結婚させてしまうまで。
俺は友達をお前に人質として委ねる。
もし俺が逃げたら、そいつをお前は縛り首にするがいい。」

すると王は悪しき企みを心に抱いて微笑む。
そして少し考えてから言う。
「三日間の猶予をお前にやろう。
しかし、わかっているだろうな! お前が戻って来る前に
もしその期間が過ぎたら、
お前の友達はお前の代わりに死なねばならん。
しかし、お前の罰は免除してやろう。」

そしてメロスは友人の所へ行って言う。「王は命じた、
俺が十字架で悪しき企てを
償うようにと。
しかし、俺が妹を許婚と結婚させるまで、
王は俺に三日の猶予を与えようというのだ。
そういうわけで、お前が王の人質になっていてくれ、
縛めを解くために、俺が戻って来るまで。」

すると忠実なる友人は黙って彼を抱擁し、
身を暴君に委ねる、
メロスは出発する。
そして三度目の曙が現れる前に、
メロスは許婚と妹を急いで結婚させて、
心に憂いを抱きつつ急ぐ、
約束の期限を逸しないようにと。

すると絶え間ない土砂降りの雨が降ってきて、
山から泉が溢れ出る。
小川は溢れ、流れは溢れる。
メロスが旅の杖を携えて岸に着くと、
橋を激流が押し流し、
轟音を上げつつ波は
橋のアーチを打ち壊す。

メロスは川岸をさまよう、
どれほど見回しても
どんなに叫んでも
舟は安全な岸辺を離れて
メロスを向こう岸へ渡そうとはしない。
船頭は渡し舟を操ろうとせず
荒々しい流れは大海の如くになる。

そこでメロスは岸辺に座り込み、泣いて嘆願する、
手をゼウスの方に差し上げて。
「ああ、荒れ狂う流れをとどめて下さい!
時は速やかに過ぎ去り、南に
太陽はあります。そして、もし日が沈んだら、
そして、私が町にたどり着かなかったら、
友達は私のために死なねばならないのです。」

しかしますます流れは激しくなり、
そして波は次々に砕け、
そして時は刻々と過ぎ去る。
メロスは不安に駆り立てられ、勇気を奮い起こし、
激しい流れに飛び込む
そして、力強い腕で
流れを分けて泳ぐ、すると一人の神が慈悲を垂れ給う。

そして岸にたどり着き、急いで進む。
そして救い給う神に感謝する。
そこに盗賊の群れが
暗い森から現れて襲いかかり、
メロスの行く手をさえぎり、殺すぞと息巻き、
脅かすように棍棒を振り回して
急ぐ旅人の邪魔をする

「何が欲しいのだ?」とメロスは、叫ぶ、驚愕の余り青ざめて、
「俺は自分の命以外は何も要らぬ、
これを俺は王に与えねばならんのだ!」
そして近くにいる奴から棍棒を直ちに奪い取る。
「友達のためだ、哀れと思ってくれ!」
そして三人を力いっぱいぶんなぐって
メロスが倒すと、他の者たちは逃げてしまう。

そして太陽は焼けつくような暑熱を送り、
そして終らぬ努力に
疲れて膝は沈み込む。
「ああ、神様は私をお恵みにより盗賊の手から救い、
濁流から神聖な土地に救い上げて下さいました。
それなのに、ここで憔悴して死ねとおっしゃるのですね、
そして私のために身代わりになった友人に死ねとおっしゃるのですね!」

すると、ほら! 銀色に輝く水が
すぐ近くに流れる音がする、さらさらという水音が、
そして静かに彼は聞き耳を立てる。
すると、見よ、岩から、囁くように、すばやく、
つぶやくように、生き生きとした泉が溢れる。
喜んでメロスは身をかがめ、
燃える四肢を冷やす。

太陽は枝の緑を通して射し込み、
輝く草地に
木々の巨大な影を描く。
メロスには二人の旅人が道を進むのが、
急いで通り過ぎるのが見える。
その時彼には彼らが言うのが聞こえる。
「今頃あの男は十字架につけられている」と。

不安は急ぐ足に羽をつけ、
彼を憂慮の苦しみは追い立てる。
すると夕陽の輝きの中で
遠くからシラクサの城壁がほのかに光る。
メロスに、家の実直な守り手、
ピロストラートスが向って来て、
主人を驚いて認める。

「お戻り下さい。もうお友達を救うことはできません。
自分自身の命をお救い下さい。
お友達は今死の苦しみを味わっておられます。
毎時間、お友達は
戻って来られるのを待ち望んでおられました。
暴君の嘲りはお友達から
勇気ある信頼を奪うことはできませんでした。」

「たとえ遅くなり過ぎても、そして俺が奴に
歓迎される救い手として現れることができなくても、
俺は死んで奴と一つになるつもりだ。
残忍な暴君に
友が友に対して義務を果たさなかったことを自慢させてなるものか。
暴君には二人を犠牲として殺させ、
そして愛と誠を信じさせてやるのだ。」

そして太陽が沈む時、メロスが市の門に立つと、
十字架が既に立てられるのが見える。
群衆は口を開けてその回りに立っている。
綱につけられて既に友人が引き上げられようとしている。
その時メロスは力強くひしめく人々をかき分けて、
「刑吏よ、俺を」とメロスは叫ぶ「縛り首にしろ!
俺はここにいる、俺の代りにそいつは人質になっているのだ!」

周囲の民衆は驚きに捉えられる。
お互いの腕の中に二人は抱き合って、
そして痛みと喜びのあまり泣く。
見る限り濡れていない目はなく、
王にこの不思議な話を伝える。
王は人間らしく感動して、
すぐに王座の前に二人を連れて来させる。

そして二人を長く不思議そうに見つめる。
そして彼は言う。「お前たちは成功した。
お前たちは私の心に打ち勝った。
誠は空虚な妄想ではないのだ。
私も仲間に加えてくれ。
願いを聞き届けてくれるなら、私を
お前たちの仲間の三人目にしてくれ。」


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