The Human Condition (novel)

The Human Condition (人間の條件, Ningen no jōken) is a six-part novel written by Junpei Gomikawa. It was first published in Japan in 1958. The novel was an immediate bestseller and sold 2.4 million copies within its first three years after being published.[1] It became the basis for Masaki Kobayashi's film trilogy The Human Condition, released between 1959 and 1961.[2][3] It had also been broadcast as a radio drama before the film release.[4]

The Human Condition
AuthorJunpei Gomikawa
GenreAutobiographical novel
Publication date

The novel is about the experience of the protagonist during World War II and is partly autobiographical.[1][3] The novel is critical of Japan's role in the war. According to Naoko Shimazu, the novel is unique in that it portrays Japan as the aggressor during the war and how the Chinese, Korean and Japanese people themselves were victimized by those actions.[1] According to Shimazu, the novel was important for "purify[ing] the Japanese from their polluted past, by expressing their deeply held anger."[1]

Left-wing critics in Japan criticized the novel's "sentimental humanism."[5]

Currently, no English translation of the novel exists.


  1. ^ a b c d Shimazu, N. (2003). "Popular Representations of the Past: The Case of Postwar Japan". Journal of Contemporary History. 38 (1): 104–105. doi:10.1177/0022009403038001966. JSTOR 3180699. S2CID 144817245. – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  2. ^ Hendrix, G. (November 2, 2009). "King of Pain". The Slate Group. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  3. ^ a b Kemp, P. (September 9, 2009). "The Human Condition: The Prisoner". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  4. ^ Russell, C. (2010). "Review: The Human Condition". Cineaste. 35 (3): 53–55. JSTOR 41690921. – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  5. ^ Yoshikuni Igarashi (2002). "Review: The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan by James J. Orr". The Journal of Asian Studies. 61 (2): 730. doi:10.2307/2700340. JSTOR 2700340. S2CID 197836859. – via JSTOR (subscription required)