WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY PRESENT TRIGGERS AS IT INVOLVES THE TOPIC OF SUICIDE.
Greetings, my fellow book-lovers!
It’s been a minute. March is usually a down-time for me. I lost both of my parents in the month of March (different years.) So, during this month, I tend to cut back a bit and take time to reflect on and celebrate the lives of two of the most important people in my life. The ones who gave me life. It’s a difficult process. Tears are shed. But I’m profoundly grateful for the wonderful memories they’ve left me with.
And one last thing. Though March may be a hard month for me, it never stops me from reading. Books carry me through even the toughest of times.
So, let’s talk about books, shall we?
The Flowers of Buffoonery by Osamu Dazai takes place in a seaside recovery facility in pre-war Japan. One of the patients, a struggling artist named Yozo, has been admitted after a failed double suicide attempt. The married woman who was Yozo’s partner in this pact, has not survived. This novella, described as “darkly humorous,” documents the days following Yozo’s attempt, as he comes to terms with the repercussions of his actions.
While recuperating, Yozo is entertained by his two closest friends, who are determined, in spite of the circumstances, to keep the mood light during their visits. Yozo also begins to develop a strange attachment to the nurse who is in charge of his care. These individuals act as a buffer between Yozo and the reality of what awaits him.
But when his older brother arrives to “straighten things out,” clarity sets in. Playing the role of the classic wet blanket, Yozo’s brother puts an end to his dreamy days of convalescence filled with card games, friendly teasing, and harmless flirtations.
Now Yozo must make some hard decisions about his life. About his future. But no one ever bothers to ask why he would attempt suicide in the first place.
The Flowers of Buffoonery is a strangely fascinating novel that skims around the surface of topics like depression, despair, and suicide, but never offers you anything concrete to hold onto. As odd as it sounds with this story you have to read between the lines, look beyond the haze of cigarette smoke and playful banter, and see what lies beneath. What you’ll find are characters deeply plagued by insecurities and self-doubt (which is mirrored by the writer-narrator in the form of asides that are interspersed throughout the novel.)
And what of the deceased woman, Sono, whose death Yozo was directly involved in? Often Yozo appears completely detached from the event and Sono, as if he doesn’t care about what happened. But I think Yozo is envious. Sono managed to escape the pain whereas Yozo could not. It brought to mind, the characters of Gloria and Robert in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/152052.They_Shoot_Horses_Don_t_They_
To carry that level of despair and desperation, to feel as though there are no other options, is lonely and isolating. So of course, one would gravitate towards another in a similar state of mind. I believe that to be the case for Yozo and Sono. But when it comes to what exactly happened after they decided to jump, that’s far more difficult to parse.
I’ve taken a more serious approach in my synopsis and review of this novella, which I believe to be warranted. But as I mentioned briefly at the beginning of my review, this work is considered a dark comedy. And the humor is there, if you’re inclined to indulge in it.
As for me, I found The Flowers of Buffoonery to be a strange read. One of those odd experiences that most definitely left an impression.