Imagine that a writer today, in a thinly disguised self-portrait, revealed that he had slept with countless prostitutes, had casually hooked up with and abandoned numerous women, frittered away his family wealth on alcohol and drugs, attempted suicide on numerous occasions and persuaded, en route, one of his lovers to kill herself.

A Shameful Life, by Osamu Dazai, Translated by Mark Gibeau.144 pagesSTONE BRIDGE PRESS, Fiction.

Today, such a writer might be castigated, condemned and turned into an instant pariah: Perhaps his books would be taken from bookshops. Yet when Osamu Dazai's short, electrifying novel, "Ningen Shikkaku" (released in a new translation as "A Shameful Life" by Mark Gibeau) was published in 1948, it triggered a huge "Dazai Boom."