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1. A Personal Matter
2. A Quiet Life (Oe, Kenzaburo)
3. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness:
4. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
5. The Silent Cry: A Novel
6. Changeling
7. Grand Street 55: Egos (Winter
8. An Echo of Heaven
9. Hiroshima Notes
10. The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo (Routledge
11. Rouse Up O Young Men of the New
12. Somersault (Oe, Kenzaburo)
13. The Crazy Iris and Other Stories
14. A Healing Family
15. The Marginal World of Oe Kenzaburo:
16. Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself:
17. Faulkner and Oe: The Self-Critical
18. La Presa (Spanish Edition)
19. M/T to mori no fushigi no monogatari

1. A Personal Matter
by Kenzaburo Oë
Paperback: 165 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802150616
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

Oe’s most important novel, A Personal Matter, has been called by The New York Times “close to a perfect novel.” In A Personal Matter, Oe has chosen a difficult, complex though universal subject: how does one face and react to the birth of an abnormal child? Bird, the protagonist, is a young man of 27 with antisocial tendencies who more than once in his life, when confronted with a critical problem, has “cast himself adrift on a sea of whisky like a besotted Robinson Crusoe.” But he has never faced a crisis as personal or grave as the prospect of life imprisonment in the cage of his newborn infant-monster. Should he keep it? Dare he kill it? Before he makes his final decision, Bird’s entire past seems to rise up before him, revealing itself to be a nightmare of self-deceit. The relentless honesty with which Oe portrays his hero — or antihero — makes Bird one of the most unforgettable characters in recent fiction.
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Customer Reviews (39)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe
This book is about Bird, a twenty-something man and teacher whose wife has just given birth to a baby with a seemingly grave brain hernia. The book takes place over a week or so, and carefully tells of Bird's conflicting feelings about the baby and its probable impact on his life. Bird is an irresponsible, self-hating man who feels trapped by his life. He desperately wants to escape from everyone and travel to Africa, but his son obviously stops that from happening and may keep him chained down to a miserable life forever. Because the book deals with feelings such as these it is not a light read; we get to know Bird in all his pain and insecurities, and the vivid writing makes his reality palpable and quite uncomfortable for the reader. As Bird fails to keep his sobriety and is unfaithful to his wife, we are shown a portrait of the Defeatist as a young man, an image that is slightly relieved by a somewhat hopeful ending but still filled with haunting sentences that stay with you. Oe is a master, and has the unique ability to write sparse Japanese prose with modern Western sensibilities, creating a style that is lean and uncomfortably precise. Recommended for anyone needing a starting point to get into Oe's ouvre, but take note that it is a very dour trip.

2-0 out of 5 stars Bleak...
In A Personal Matter, Kenzaburo Oe creates a protagonist who is very reminiscent of the French existentialist anti-hero--someone for whom society has lost its stabilizing influence and has descended into anomie, ennui and internal chaos. Given the world's recent history, this sort of main character is understandable. But where Oe differs from the French existentialists is in the massive amount of self-loathing, shame, and self-delusion that his protagonist subjects himself to. (No matter how morose the French become, they always have Paris...)

The story revolves around the central character of Bird, a man who, faced with the birth of a baby with a monstrous deformity, flees from his responsibilities through fantasy, alcohol, sex, and, finally, attempted murder. Bird, a former delinquent from a "provincial city", has himself come from a background of abuse and neglect, and simply cannot adjust to the demands of reality. As we follow him through his torrid sexual adventures, his sickening descent into drunkenness, his deceit, and his self-disgust it is as if we are witnessing the complete disintegration of society itself. You could, in fact, analyze this book forever from that standpoint, because I am sure that is part of what Oe intended us to see and feel.

Where this book fails is not in its stark portrayal of the human condition, its symbolism, or its dark subject matter--all of which earned Oe a Nobel prize--but in Oe's inability to come to a conclusion consistent with his own vision. The self-destruction inherent in Bird's behavior certainly did not warrant Oe's eleventh-hour happy ending. If we are to believe that Bird has had an epiphany which completely turns him around from a self-absorbed escapist into a person of compassion and responsibility then Oe must show the entire process, give us a rationale, present us with the actual drama. (Bird confronting the impersonal hospital staff would have done the trick.) Otherwise, what comes across is an empty gesture, a last-minute attempt to conform to middle-class sensibilities.

If the ending was a disappointment, so was the writing. Some of Oe's literary gaffs can be laid at the translator's door. ("Lightful" may exist in Japanese, but it certainly doesn't in English.) That being said, I have the feeling that the stilted conversations, the overabundance of similes, the long, philosophical expositions, and the lack of individual "voice" was not due to something "lost in translation" but something lost in Oe, himself. His vision is simply too dark to allow for real character development, for humor or for warmth. These are the qualities I most admire in an author, and of which Oe, I regret to say, demonstrates very little.

5-0 out of 5 stars Macbeth is Not Shakespeare's Greatest Play
The Magic Flute is not Mozart's greatest opera. Do you catch my drift? "A Personal Matter" is not Kenzaburo Oe's greatest novel, but it is definitely great. Like many of Dickens's novels, the conclusion seems too deliberately conclusive and somewhat forced. Until the last chapter, however, this is a novel of such searing emotional terror that most readers will be grateful for its unexpected 'hopeful' ending.

"A Personal Matter" is easily Oe's most popular novel, outselling all others by a huge margin both in Japan and outside. That's easy to explain. It's his easiest, most traditional narrative, strictly chronological, told by an 'omniscient' narrator whose omniscience is obviously a mask for the author's projection of his own consciousness into his character named Bird. There is none of Oe's usual deliberate disorder and allusive/elusive obscurity. Plenty of 'shocking' scenes occur, but for Kenzaburo Oe this novel is almost chaste in its depictions of perversity and violence. If the reader is at all acquainted with Oe's other books, or with Oe's true 'personal matter' behind Bird's crisis, it's not hard to intuit that the author wanted and needed a simple structure, distanced from himself, to work out the anguish of his imagination.

Oe's personal matter was the birth of his first child, a son, with severe brain damage. That was in 1963. In 1964, Oe wrote two 'accounts' of his experience, this novel "A Personal Matter" and the short story "Aghwee the Sky Monster". Prior to 1963, most of Oe's writings had focused on the catastrophes of recent Japanese history: the war, the collapse of the Japanese identity along with the de-deification of the Emperor, and the bombing of Hiroshima. Since 1963, Oe's most powerful writing has traced the evolution of his fatherhood, of his intense bonding with his unique son. Oe the man has been a difficult, eruptive, unmanageable person, whose identity-pains inflate to fill any space he enters. From so much pain, so much humanity!

Oe would have been a great writer even if his son had been born in mediocre normalcy. Once in a while, I persuade myself that I can write, if not popularly at least honestly, but Oe's 'honesty' to his own craft as a writer and to his own humanity leaves me gasping in awe. This is the same honesty that I admire in the writings of WG Sebald. Neither Oe nor Sebald is bound to literal veracity, fact for fact, in their obviously autobiographical fictions. Both of them shape their lives imaginatively in their story-telling. But Oe's imagination comes closer to Reality than anyone else's 'swear-on-a-bible' truth. Think of the greatest autobiographers of the past -- Augustine, Rousseau, De Quincey, Lowell -- and get ready for an Oe who spills his guts more courageously than any of them.

5-0 out of 5 stars Forbearance
A Person Matter centers around the protagonist Bird - an dissatisfied intellectual in his mid-twenties who has just fathered a brain damaged child. Overcome with anxiety, Bird is clouded by a plethora of negative thoughts and sees the child as monster born to consume everything from his freedom to his lifelong dreams. With his scared and selfish mindset Bird freefalls into a hole filled with denial and self-destruction. The question which he ultimately faces in the end is why? The answer is quite simple...

Kenzaburo does an incredible job bringing to the surface the true thoughts that every self-righteous human being wouldn't dare to verbalise. Thoughts that we would only confine to the personal space of our own heads. The book itself is filled with brilliant metaphors and riddles regarding the irony of life. It questions the human sense of self-denial, selfishness, confusion and irrational thinking.

Beautifully written it accomplishes a lot all while using an incredibly sensitive topic. Finally, John Nathan must be commended for the great job he did with the translation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Both for laughs and cries
This book is a perfect example of how good writing conquers all.It ultimately doesn't matter whether the subject is gruesome, the main character completely despicable, the culture foreign or how dated the material is (people say things like "groovy").How much of the beguiling effect is owed to the translation I don't know, but I assume that it is based on an outstanding original.

What to make of a young man whose wife has just delivered their first baby (while he was having a showdown with a street gang) and who responds to his son's physically appalling abnormality by going on a rampage of alcohol and sex, eagerly awaiting news of the baby's death?Nothing simple for sure.Oe not only makes it understandable that shame, fear and sadness can lead to seemingly incomprehensible actions--for those to whom the matter is not personal.He instills into Bird, the protagonist, a soul that the reader willingly follows him search.Bird's aimlessness, his dreaming of Africa, his reluctance to commit, are all not unusual for a 27-year old, and it may just be the extent of his tragedy that makes his wrestling with responsibility seem more crass than others.Throughout Bird's outrageously selfish few days of dealing with his own post-partum issues (and an emerging history of less than glorious encounters with morality), Oe supplies him with such ingenious self-irony that he ends up almost endearing.

Infusing a difficult premise like this one with humor is no easy feat, nor is the marvelous suspension of the plot, but that is why Oe's praise, up to the Nobel Prize, is so well deserved.Like Bird's inner world, the novel revolves around him, but does not operate in a vacuum.Although Japan in the early sixties places the action into a firm context, global upheavals of the old order (the women's lib movement, political unrest in academia, the Cuban missile crisis) give it universal appeal. Highly recommendable.
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2. A Quiet Life (Oe, Kenzaburo)
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 256 Pages (1997-12-08)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802135463
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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"A Quiet Life" is narrated by Ma-chan, a young woman who at the age of 20 gets caught up in an unusual family situation. Her father is a famous novelist; her older brother is brain-damaged but possesses a gift for music; and her mother's life is devoted to caring for them both. When her father is offered a visiting professorship in an American university, Ma-chan finds herself at the center of family relationships that she must begin to redefine.Amazon.com Review
Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe has produced a quirky, introspectivenovel that uses autobiographical elements to tell the story of a writer'sfamily and his rediscovery of his place therein. Written in the form of adiary, the story is told from the point of view of Ma-Chan, the daughter of afamous writer (identified only as "K") who has decamped toCalifornia as a university writer-in-residence. Ma-Chan is left in charge ofher equally famous brother, an idiot savant who composes brilliant classicalmusic. The mentally retarded brother, nicknamed Eeyore, has violent fits,periods of incontinence, and a troubling new sexual awareness. Like Faulkner's BenjyCompson, he is the moral center of the book, a touchstone and a catalyst forthe muted events that carry the novel to its unpredictable close. Full ofdigressions on the cinema, modernist music, and the novels of Louis-FerdinandCeline, Oe's latest novel is a stylized, idiosyncratic confessional thatonly he could fashion. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Communication takes many forms
Simply put, to open this novel is to enter a world of doubt and self doubt where singularity and mundanity co-exist easily.

Ma-Chan a young woman of 20 is our narrator in this slim novel.While Ma-Chan's older brother has a handicap, he has a recognised gift for musical composition.Ma-Chan's younger brother is cramming for his examinations.Ma-Chan's mother's life revolves around caring for her oldest son and supporting her husband who is a famous novelist. Ma-Chan's father accepts a visiting professorship in America and his wife accompanies him.This sudden change to the dynamics of the family finds Ma-Chan accepting new responsibility and each one of the siblings finding different dimensions to their lives. The narration covers a period of 6 or 7 months.Sparse, well chosen prose brings this novel to life.

This is a novel which invites the reader to think: to look beyond the obvious and to accept that perspectives are relative.To do all of this so beautifully within 240 pages is a precious gift indeed.

I have not previously read any work by Kenzaburo Oe: a situation I will now address thanks to the recommendations of an Amazon friend.I understand that there are echoes of Kenzaburo's own life in this novel and I hope that the thread of hope and the blossoming of these characters is a reflection of that.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

5-0 out of 5 stars Prayers of a faithless man
Ever since Oe's handicapped son was born in the early 60s (see A Personal Matter), the writer's life has been turning around the challenge to his family in raising the child, and around his feelings of guilt about initial reactions to the shock. He has written about it in various permutations and from different standpoints.

The situation pretended by this novel is this: Eeyore, the son, is now 25, he is a stable element in the family, he works in a workshop for handicapped people, he is a talented composer, and he still has occasional fits. He has two 'normal' siblings, a sister of 20 and a brother of 18 or so. The parents have been so preoccupied with the eldest, that the father has neglected his relationship with the other kids.

The father is a prominent writer, but he has his problems and depressions. He accepts a guest job at a UC campus in California for a year. His wife is worried about him and decides to accompany him to the US. The responsibility for the family in Tokyo rests with the daughter, Ma-Chan, who has her own insecurities. She takes charge and she writes the book, which she will give as a gift to her father in the end.
An important part of how she sees 'K' is as a semi-religious person, somebody who alleges not to have a faith, but seems to have made his way at least half towards the church.
And Ma-Chan shows her own mettle with her mantra of defiance: Hell, No! She will not succumb or give up or do the wrong thing.

What do we have here? Autobiography clad in fictional garb? A new look at the own life? Is the obsession that KO obviously has for this subject a reason to reduce the star count? Everybody talks about KO as 'K' in the book. So we have Kafka's K, Brecht's K, and Oe's K?
While KO is no humorist by far, he is using the alleged authorship of the daughter for unabashed Oe-bashing. His friends are outraged with him. He is irresponsible in leaving his kids alone in Tokyo. He is an egocentric, he is selfish, arrogant, a coward, his attitude to action when needed is lukewarm..
And do not take the title too literally! There are a molester, a rapist, a murder story with unclear culprit, cancer, funeral, epileptical fits, and literary encounters with Aitmatov, Ende, Celine, Vonnegut...

I would say, if you want to get to know Oe, this may not be an ideal starting point, since the subject may be too deep inside Oeland for a newcomer.
For me, it was an ideal read for a flight from Shanghai to San Francisco.

5-0 out of 5 stars Captivating
This novel is like a bonsai tree - spare, carefully trimmed, yet exquisite. The clarity of its language makes it a deceptively easy read, yet there are many layers of meaning in this quiet tale.

Parental daughter Ma-chan's simple narrative of paternal narcissism and abandonment unfolds to a riveting climax. Eeyore, the "accursed child" turns out to be fully human and, in fact, the hero of the book. Don't start reading it on a work night!

5-0 out of 5 stars Taking Care of Your Family
Shizuka na seikatsu or A Quiet Life by Oe Kenzaburo, is a good solid read.At first the story starts out very slow and doesn't really pick up the pace until the last section called, Diary At Home.But the in depth fleshing out of the two principal characters, Machan and Eeyore, more then compensate for lack of plot points.This gives the whole story a very Ozu style atmosphere.Oe, like Ozu, is concerned with side streets instead of busy highways and like the scene in Ozu's Early Summer, where the family visits the great Buddha in Kamakura, the focus is on the family's conversation and the Buddha is ignored.You really feel like you don't want the story to end as you allow yourself to get wrapped up in the characters in their simple everyday lives.This also gives the novel an Ozu quality in that in an Ozu film you don't want the story to end.I was amazed that this book could accomplish such a similar quality.Do yourself a favor and read A Quiet Life. Then read Kaifuku suru Kazoku or A Healing Family, the book that won Oe the Noble Prize.

3-0 out of 5 stars Intellectually Interesting Introspection from a Nobel Winner
"A Quiet Life" is the first person narrative of Ma-chan, a twenty-year-old university student and the daughter of a famous Japanese author. When her father accepts a visiting professorship at the University of California, and her mother decides to accompany him abroad, Ma-chan is left at home in Japan to care for her older, brain-damaged brother Eeyore (like the character in "Winnie-the-Pooh") and her younger brother, Oh-chan, who is studying for his university entrance exams.

"A Quiet Life" is a slow-moving story with little action and a deeply realistic, human touch. Like much of Oe's writing, "A Quiet Life" is a fictional work that is powerfully marked by a real-life event--the birth of Oe's brain-damaged son in the mid-1960s. Thus, Ma-chan, the narrator, grapples throughout the narrative with her feelings about Eeyore, as well as her feelings about her intellectual and emotionally distant father.

Much of the novel is devoted to exploring Ma-chan's thoughts and feelings as she follows a mundane, day-to-day existence shepherding Eeyore to music lessons with Mr. Shegito, a professor and friend of her father, and to swimming lessons with Mr. Akai, a somewhat cold and sinister character of questionable motives. Along the way, Ma-chan continually realizes that Eeyore is, in many ways, a remarkably sensitive and gifted human being, despite his disability.

Oe's narrative is enigmatic and subtle in its suggestiveness. Oe, through the voice of his narrator, makes much of words that Ma-chan repeats in her narrative, words that are italicized in the text and linger in the reader's mind like ontological talismans. The text, too, reflects the intellectual groundings of Ma-chan's distant father-seemingly the author Oe himself-when it delves into extended discussions of Tarkovsky's film, "Stalker" (based on the classic, if somewhat obscure science fiction novel, "Roadside Picnic" written by the Strugatsky brothers), and the writings of Celine, notably "Rigadoon" (in a somewhat disturbingly sympathetic literary riff on a notorious, albeit fascinating, anti-semite).

While I am familiar with Oe's biography, this is the first novel I have read by him. He is an interesting and intellectually impressive writer who perhaps deserved the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. I know I will read more of his work. However, as Ma-chan's mother comments when Ma-chan tells her of the title of the diary she has kept: "'Diary as Home' sounds bland and dull." She then elicits a different title from Eeyore, who suggests: "How about 'A Quiet Life'? That's what our life's all about." It is, indeed, the narrative of a quiet life, but Eeyore's title unfortunately does not save Oe's book from being bland and dull. While "A Quiet Life" is redeemed by the sensitivity, the enigmatic feeling and the profound intellect of its author, the story ultimately falters on a sometimes mind-numbing banality and what seems to be a stilted English translation. Thus, while I enjoyed reading "A Quite Life," I often had difficulty maintaining my interest in Oe's narrative. ... Read more

3. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels: The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away, Prize Stock, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, Aghwee the Sky Monster
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 261 Pages (1994-10-13)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$4.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 080215185X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

These four novels display Oe’s passionate and original vision. Oe was ten when American jeeps first drove into the mountain village where he lived, and his literary work reveals the tension and ambiguity forged by the collapse of values of his childhood on the one hand and the confrontation with American writers on the other. The earliest of his novels included here, Prize Stock, reveals the strange relationship between a Japanese boy and a captured black American pilot in a Japanese village. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness tells of the close relationship between an outlandishly fat father and his mentally defective son, Eeyore. Aghwee the Sky Monster is about a young man’s first job — chaperoning a banker’s son who is haunted by the ghost of a baby in a white nightgown. The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away is the longest piece in this collection and Oe’s most disturbing work to date. The narrator lies in a hospital bed waiting to die of a liver cancer that he has probably imagined, wearing a pair of underwater goggles covered with dark cellophane.
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Customer Reviews (12)

1-0 out of 5 stars Disturbing (but not in a way you want it to be)
I read two of these four novellas before I finally became so disgusted that I could not continue. I am no prude, but the author seems inordinately concerned with describing genitals.My turning point for deciding not to read any more of the book occurred during my reading of PRIZE STOCK.Unless you want to be regaled with descriptions of adult and child genitalia, don't read this book. The author sexualized children in that novel and there was even a scene that strongly hinted at bestiality. This is a product of a disturbed mind, and I refuse to subject myself to it even further.It no longer surprises me that the academic community would swoon over tripe like this. In their eyes, the weirder the contemporary novel, the better.

4-0 out of 5 stars Oy! Oy! Oe!
If you are a fan of Japanese literature or post-modern American lit or the Russian writers or just about anybody for that matter, you will love Oe. Introspective. Sympathetic and challlenging, He writes to share a deep part of himself.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE LOSERS LEARN MOST
The two most powerful writers about the traumas of WW2, in my reading experience, are the German W.G. Sebald and the Japanese Ooe Kenzaburo. Both men were children during the actual fighting, and both write about the shame and denial they observed in the adult communities in which they grew up. Both are obsessed with memory, with the loss and recovery of memory, but their literary modes could hardly be more different. Sebald is a writer of dispassionate rage -- yes, I intended that oxymoron -- who distances his subjects with exquisite verbal delicacy. For Sebald, memory is the only reality. Nothing exists except in memory, and when the memory is lost, the reality dies with it. Sebald is heir to the melancholy rationalism of German literary culture. Ooe's literary culture, from Bunraku to Meiji to modernism, is one of sensation and sensationalism, of staged hysteria, assaultive imagery and lurid exposure. For Ooe, memory is an inescapable but inexplicable burden, a riddle one must solve in order to live, in hopes of breaking through the past to the present.

Ooe has just two stories to tell, which he has recast with new brilliancy and insight in all of his books. Both are catastrophic. The older story is that of a boy, obviously the author himself, in a remote valley of Japan, discovering his own personhood at exactly the moment of Japan's crushing defeat in the War. It's a tale of irreparable disillusionment and shame. The early story Prize Stock and the later The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away are both stories of that moment. Ooe's other theme is also autobiographical; in 1964, when Ooe was 29, his first child was born, a son who suffered brain damage at birth and who grew up mentally handicapped and autistic. The father's ferocious bond with his `retarded' son is the subject of the story Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, as well as the implicit motif of Agwhee the Sky Monster.

The Day He Himself is the longest and boldest story in this volume, which was not originally written as a unified collection. It's also the most violent, grotesque, obscene, and agonizing. A 35-year-old man is confined to bed in a hospital or an asylum, dying of liver cancer that he may be imagining. He is obsessed (there's that word again) with dictating the true "history of the age" -- by which he means the moment of transcendance when his father died and thus liberated the divine chysanthemum spirit of the suddenly human God-Emperor -- to an amanuensis who may be either a nurse or his wife, so that it can be presented to his mother-enemy upon his death. Both the scribe and the mother refuse to be constrained by the `dying' man's reality. Difficult and hideous as it is, The Day He Himself is arguably Ooe's most luminous masterpiece. I'd suggest ignoring the translator's order and reading the three other, shorter stories first, saving this glorious ordeal for last.

Prize Stock is a far less arduous puzzle to read but no less viscerally shocking. That boy in the village, on the backward island of Shikoku, finds himself temporarily the proud guardian of a captive American soldier, a black man whom he can't understand except as a docile animal. After all, the captive is language-less and inscrutable yet clearly sentient. Shared humanity is NOT a given. The contact has a horrific outcome.

Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness is told by the grotesquely fat father of a mentally defective son, who takes the boy to a zoo to attempt to stimulate his short-sighted, deformed eyes. Irrational violence occurs, the father and son are separated, and the psychological aftermath is .... not perhaps what you'll expect.

In Agwhee the Sky Monster, the narrator becomes the paid companion of a famous artist who has `lost his mind' and is haunted by the ghost of a baby whose death he permitted.

Obviously, none of these stories are frivolus or frolicksome. And they are very foreign in sensibilities, as foreign to an English reader as that gruesomely beastialized captive American was to the villagers of Shikoku. Don't expect an easy universal human sympathy when you read Ooe Kenzaburo. Prepare yourself to be challenged emotionally and intellectually.

5-0 out of 5 stars A continuum of themes: fathers, mothers, children, madness
"Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness" collects four stories--novellas, really--from the first 15 years of Oe's career. Each is unique in narrative style, in tone, and in pace, but all four deal with similar themes that matured over the years.

"Prize Stock" (1957), one of Oe's very first stories and perhaps his most famous, is about a black American airman captured during the war by the residents of a remote village, who take him prisoner but hide him from the authorities in a cellar, where he seemingly manages to befriend the local children. In "Aghwee the Sky Monster" (1964), a narratorrecalls a friend haunted by the spirit of a son born with serious brain damage. It is one of the earliest of many works (including the masterpiece, "A Personal Matter") featuring such a child, inspired by Oe's own son Hikari, who in fact eventually overcame serious disabilities to become a respected composer of music.

An "idiot child" is also at the center of the title story (1969), which is my favorite of the collection--and may well be the best short work Oe ever wrote. "A fat man" takes his beloved son for a pleasant day at the zoo. Assaulted by hoodlums and tossed into the polar bear pond, he regains consciousness to discover that the child is missing. The trauma serves as a catalyst for coming to terms with the man's relationship with his own father, whose death had been a mystery to him.

Similar themes and characters populate the longest and most complex selection, "The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away" (1972). A hospital patient believes he has cancer--although his doctors insist he does not. Much of the man's first-person, non-linear rant is told to the "the acting executor of the will," that is, his wife. Bedridden, he lives in his past, brooding over his estrangement from his mother and recounting his father's suicidal mission to save Japan from defeat at the end of World War II--an event the narrator distorts in memory. Oe apparently intended this as an anguished parody of Yukio Mashima's suicide. While eerily compelling, the story can be difficult and baffling. It strongly echoes Oe's earlier novel "The Silent Cry," which (I think) deals with these themes much more successfully--at least for readers unfamiliar with Japanese history and traditions.

What is most notable about Oe's work is that the same characters, ideas, subjects, and even certain scenes appear repeatedly in his many works--yet each story or novel is utterly distinctive. And his offbeat, sometimes morbid humor often catches readers unawares. His fiction translates remarkably well to English, and I never feel like I've read the same work twice.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is why he won the Nobel Prize
Oe's giant stature as a writer is demonstrated here more than in any other of his books. All these stories are wonderful, but "The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away" is one of the greatest works of fiction I've ever read. I mean that. Buy this book and read it. You won't be sorry. ... Read more

4. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 192 Pages (1996-06-13)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802134637
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Oe's dark musings on moral failure have come to symbolize an alienated generation in postwar Japan. This novel recounts the exploits of 15 teenage reformatory boys evacuated to a remote mountain village in wartime. When plague breaks out, the villagers flee, leaving the boys blockaded inside the empty village. The boys' brief, doomed attempt to build autonomous lives of self-respect, love, and tribal valor fails in the face of death and the adult nightmare of war. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars "Listen, someone like you should be throttled while they're still a kid....We're peasants:we nip the bad buds early."
Written in 1958, when the author was only twenty-three, this debut novel is stunning for its depiction of two societies--the society of peasant villagers who live in a remote and nearly inaccessible mountain village, and a society created by young delinquents after they are abandoned and blockaded inside this small village.It is also reflects the author's vision of the broader society of Japan in the aftermath of World War II.Author Kenzaburo Oe was ten years old when the war ended and the Emperor, the "living god," announced the surrender of the country.In the years leading up to the publication of this novel, Japan and the Occupation forces came to agreements and influenced each other, and Oe believes that this led to a sense of emptiness and ambiguity in society--the old values and ways of life were gone, while theincreasingly influential western values were not necessarily compatible with Japanese history.

Many western readers of this novel will be shocked to discover how "un-Japanese" in style this novel is.Oe, a student of Sartre and Heidegger in college, embraces those influences in his writing, instead of the delicacy, subtlety, and minimalist simplicity one usually associates with the Japanese arts.The novel is characterized by dense imagery, a strong narrative line and powerful emotions, violence presented as an understandable response to injustice, and an indictment of the communal mindset which can lead to expedient decision-making at the expense of the individual and his liberty.

Narrated by an unnamed delinquent who is one of fifteen boys being evacuated from their reformatory to a remote mountain during the war, the novel shows the inhumanity with which these boys are treated by the peasants for whom they are expected to work clearing the fields.The boys, malnourished and exhausted, arrive in time to bury a huge pile of animal carcasses, and they soon discover that these animals have died from a plague.When one of the boys dies, the villagers take off to avoid infection, barricading the way out so that the boys cannot escape.They must then set up their own society if they are to survive.Away from normal society, the boys are free to express their own emotions, and the narrator and others quickly show their inner humanity. Passages of great beauty--especially the morning in which they discover snow--contrast with the misery of their attempts at survival.Five days later, the villagers return, ready to punish the "delinquents" for stealing food from the houses and burning a warehouse to kill the plague.

Oe's novel is an intense and passionate story about the mindless behavior of the majority against "outsiders."His use of delinquents, by no means perfect or innocent, as the "heroes" of the novel sets the actions of the villagers into sharp relief.The ending is a further indictment of the use of power to control outcomes.Anyone who has enjoyed Lord of the Flies owes it to him-/herself to read this novel, which is as powerful today as it was when it was written.It is far more complex in its characterizations and themes and far less artificial and allegorical than Lord of the Flies.Mary Whipple

5-0 out of 5 stars Horrifying! Devastating!
If you read for aesthetic pleasure or to carry yourself away to exotic realms, or just to seek time-filling diversion, avoid this book as you would a rabid dog. It's a tale bursting like an angry pustule with ugliness and pain. Take note that other reviewers praise the novelist's descriptive skills and occasional lyric pulses. Don't be fooled! There's no consolation to be had from the few flashes of pale winter sky and pheasant feathers in the snow; this is a portrayal of the horrors people inflict on "others" in wartime and in times as awful as war.

Why read it then? Truth. Insight. Self-knowledge. Same reasons as you'd give for reading any painfully dark book.

This is implicitly an anti-war book. It's about a group of "juvenile delinquents" transported to a remote peasant village for wartime isolation. The villagers treat them as subhuman, and that's all I intend to tell you of the plot. I have a puzzlement, though. When did "war" novels turn from battlefields to the fate of civilians, and especially the fate of children and other weak members of society? The Tin Drum. The Painted Bird. The German Lesson by Siegfried Lenz. Austerlitz. Were there such novels before World War II? Even the great anti-war novels "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front" were about soldiers. This book "Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids" treats war as a distant constant, a natural aura surrounding human inhumanity.

Kenzaburo Oe's later novels are uncompromisingly intellectual and non-linear in narrative. Nip the Buds, his earliest translated novel, is uncompromisingly visceral. The only quality in the one that prepares the reader for the other is Oe's fearlessness in writing about grief and nastiness. Oe and Mishima are often compared, usually with approval for one and disdain for the other. They are indeed polar opposites in moral perception. Which is which? Read 'em both, and find out for yourself.

5-0 out of 5 stars Nameless and abandoned
This was Oe's first novel. His style was crisp and laconic, staying away from long descriptions and philosophizing, which is appropriate in view of the fact that the narrator is one of the boys, one of a group of juvenile delinquents who get pushed around towards the end of WW2. The narrator tells us what he can know and nothing more. No know-it-all bird's eye view intrudes.

In the introduction, the translator tells us that Oe is a man of the periphery, a custodian of a marginal community's heritage, meaning the mountain country, where the story is set. I find that an odd observation. If this is how Oe preserves his heritage, how would he go about criticizing it?

The story is violent and brutal. Peoplein it act cruelly, but there is no joyful revelling in violence in the narration. In this aspect, Oe's violence is quite far away from the voyeuristic attitude of writers like C. McCarthy.
The story has been compared to the Lord of the Flies, but it is much better told. Or to the Empire of the Sun, but it is much more truthful as it is straight fiction without pretensions of autobiography.

The story: a group of reform school kids is evacuated from Tokyo to the hinterland during WW2. They are taken to a mountain village, where a disease breaks out, something like cholera. The villagers panic and run, abandoning the boys and in fact locking them up in the village, almost. The boys briefly develop their own lives and even have some happiness. That does not last long, tragedy and death strike. The villagers return and oppression gets worse than before.

Abandonment is a main theme of the story. The boys have been abandoned by their parents, then by their country and by the villagers.
Most people in the story are nameless. The narrator is, so is his brother and his girl friend, so is the deserter who consoles him after the girl dies from the disease. There is a strong current in bi-sexuality, which is probably normal for a group of locked up teenage boys.
Only 2 people have names. One is the narrator's rival for leadership, a male prostitute. The other one is a Korean boy from the village, who first fights, then befriends the narrator. The narrator himself was put into this group because he had stabbed another high school student with a knife.
And the dog has a name, Leo. Leo is an agent of tragedy.

Oe abstains from giving us an interpretation for the story. Good thing!

5-0 out of 5 stars Monsters
The bizaare, dark, and somewhat tragic tale of a group of delinquent boys taken to a secluded mountain village during World War II, then abandoned by the villagers when a mysterious plague strikes...
I found the relationship between the narrator and his younger brother very moving.In some ways, I was reminded of Golding's Lord of the Flies, however, this novel had more positive moments shared between the boys.Very immersing, I read it in one day.

5-0 out of 5 stars Powerful
I have a friend once suffered from pneumonia. She read this book in the hospital when she had broken one of her ribs from a coughing fit. That is how pained and weak she was at that time. After she read the book she said she forgot her own anguish and cried for the suffering characters in this touching and tender book. I picked it up and have never been the same again. It made me angry, sad, and I wanted to do something about the injustice in this world. It made me a better person. ... Read more

5. The Silent Cry: A Novel
by Kenzaburo Oe
 Paperback: 288 Pages (1994-07-07)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.61
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 4770019653
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Silent Cry traces the uneasy relationship between two brothers who return to their ancestral home, a village in densely forested western Japan. While one brother tries to sort out the after-effects of a friend's suicide and the birth of a retarded son, the other embarks on a quixotic mission to incite an uprising among the local youth. Oe's description of this brother's messianic struggle to save a disintegrating local culture and economy from the depredations of a Korean wheeler-dealer called "The Emperor of the Supermarkets" is as chillingly pertinent today as it was when first published in 1967. Powerful and daring, The Silent Cry is a thoroughly compelling classic of world literature. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars My favorite Oe novel.
I've only read three other Oe novels and this one is my favorite. Its also one of my favorite books in general and I'm an avid reader. Its a very mature book so I DON'T recommend to a younger audience. As the other reviews say, its dark and can even be painful to read at times. Its quixotic, brooding, bleak, and to borrow from another reviewer it does leave you unsettled and unnerved. However, its also beautiful in an odd way... so if you're looking for something different this could be it. To summarize it, its about two brothers who visit the village they were raised in. Although this may sound a little cliche the events and the history they discover are not.

1-0 out of 5 stars Could this BE any more depressing?
Wow, this book is extrememly disturbing and I don't advise anyone read it, ever. I wanted to kill myself. Kenzaburo Oe has a freaky twisted mind and when I had to write an essay on this book there wasn't a single happy moment in the book to talk about. I usually look for the happiest moment in the book and write about it so I don't hate my paper. But the only happy moment was the end, when this godforsaken book was finally over.

5-0 out of 5 stars Football in the Year 1860
The American edition of Oe's novel may be called "The Silent Cry," but a more accurate translation of the title would be "Football in the Year 1860 [or the Man'an era]," the year Ii Naosuke, famous for brokering a commercial treaty with the U.S., was assassinated by a group of samurai loyal to the Emperor. It is also the year, in the novel, when the great-granduncle of two brothers, Mitsusaburo and Takashi, led a peasant revolt in their ancestral village.

The decision to discard a more literal translation masks what Oe is trying to do here, as he continues to pile on parallels between 1860 and the early 1960s, when this novel is set. Favoring historical symbolism and mythological surrealism, the novel defies a summary that would make much sense to the reader. A skeletal outline would describe the rivalry between Mitsusaburo, who has left his handicapped child in an institution and returned to his childhood home with his alcoholic wife, and his younger brother Takashi, recently returned from America, who "seems to want his actions influenced by the 1860 affair."

Takashi idealizes the embroidered family legends of heroism and leadership, and he arrays the village youth into a cult-like group to challenge the hegemony of a local business magnate known, not coincidentally, as "the Emperor." The story is filled with grotesqueries and violence, from the opening description of a friend's suicide (which is presented in a disconcertingly risible manner) to the rape and death of a local girl (an event that Mitsusaburo believes is invented) to Mitsusaburo's apparent nonchalance when he realizes that Takashi is sleeping with his wife.

The result is a tale of Freudian weirdness in a claustrophobic mountain village that might remind readers of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Among Oe's works, it's not as accessible (nor, in my view, as good) as "A Personal Matter" and stories like "Prize Stock" or "Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness." But, in spite of its outmoded surrealism, there's something compelling and fascinating about the deranged rivalry between the two brothers who hijack the attention of this peculiar, mythical community.

5-0 out of 5 stars its all about mirrors
this is the first novel i read by kenzaburo oe. and its simply superb. the post war its brilliantly portraid in this book. when a couple of brothers return to their hometown, each one has some experiences that changes his vision of the world. but theres another aspect that i loved in it. there was a revolution a century ago, directed by their grandgrandfather. slowly, they go discovering more about this, and finally they mirror the characters and the revolution. its a success repeating itself. the time is a circle. Oe proves it brilliantly here. Its a bit hard to read, but its worth it. DO IT!

4-0 out of 5 stars A difficultbut brilliantly written novel
Oe in " The silent cry" deals with the perplexing problem of finding ones root. The novel is a story of about two brothers who return to their village, each for their own reasons.

The story deals with by the main characters search for answer to �how does a modern man communicate( in philosophical sense )?�One brother thinks, we can communicate by death and in our silence. The other wants to communicate by connecting his present with the past of thesociety.

It is a difficult novel due to the hard subject matter. But Oe does SPLENDID job in expounding the difficult issues through his excellent narrative. ... Read more

6. Changeling
by Kenzaburo Oe, Deborah Boehm
Hardcover: 480 Pages (2010-03-16)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$16.08
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Asin: 0802119360
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Oe introduces Kogito Choko, a writer in his early sixties, as he rekindles a childhood friendship with his estranged brother-in-law, the renowned filmmaker Goro Hanawa. Goro sends Kogito a trunk of tapes he has recorded of reflections about their friendship, but as Kogito is listening one night, he hears something odd. "I'm going to head over to the Other Side now," Goro says, and then Kogito hears a loud thud. After a moment of silence, Goro's voice continues: "But don't worry, I'm not going to stop communicating with you." Moments later, Kogito's wife rushes in; Goro has jumped to his death. With that, Kogito begins a far-ranging search to understand what drove his brother-in-law to suicide. His quest takes him from the forests of southern Japan to the washed-out streets of Berlin, where Kogito confronts the ghosts from his own past and that of his lifelong, but departed, friend.
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars A decent offering from Oe (3.5 stars)
"The Changeling", the latest available book from Oe in the US, is a decent offering.It moves quickly in parts, and it is a book that requires the reader's full attention and concentration as there is much introspection inserted throughout the novel.

As noted, the "The Changeling" deals with the suicide of Kogito Choko's brother-in-law, a world famous director, and Kogito's best friend since they were both about 18 (now in his 60's), and an earlier event the two experienced together.Although the book itself is relatively straightforward in construction, time is very important, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine seamlessly when in time certain events are taking place.

The shift in point of view for the last part is done to show a different perspective that is almost haunting, but incredibly interesting; to have read from this point of view throughout the entirety of the novel could have made for some good story-making.Oe mostly handles two difficult and saddening events with clarity and gentleness.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Life in Fractals
Fractal designs, such as used to be popular twenty years ago, have the property that any part of them replicates the whole in miniature. If you zoom in on even the tiniest detail, you can reach an understanding of the entire shape. This analogy occurs to me after reading THE CHANGELING by Kenzaburo Oe, a late work by the Japanese Nobel Laureate, and so far the only thing by him that I have read. Where most novels have a linear narrative behind them, this one reads as a series of one-sided conversations, thoughts about literature and other arts, buried memories, and some bizarre incidents -- all generally minor in themselves, but each seemingly endowed with immense hidden significance, each a clue to some overall design that only gradually emerges as the various details replicate and mirror one another.

Despite its abstract content, the book is easy to read and its framework simple. Kogito Choko, a celebrated writer, is listening to some tapes sent him by his brother-in-law Goro Hanawa, once his childhood friend and now a famous film director. At the end of one of the cassettes, Goro remarks "So anyway, that's it for today -- I'm going to head over to the Other Side now. But don't worry, I'm not going to stop communicating with you." Immediately after, Goro throws himself out of the window of his high building. Kogito (an obsessive thinker, aptly named by his father from the phrase "cogito ergo sum") engages in months of conversation with the dead Goro, playing snatches of the tapes, stopping them for his own response, and then continuing to hear his friend's answer. When his wife suggests he needs to get away, he accepts a guest professorship in Berlin, where Goro had himself lived a few years back.

As an example of Oe's method, take the chapter in which Kogito is being interviewed on television in connection with the Berlin Film Festival. There is a long section about how he gets to the interview, or almost doesn't get to it: crossed wires with the person picking him up, confusion at the hotel where this is taking place, description of the technicians setting up the equipment in the hotel ballroom, the physical arrangement of the chairs, backdrop, camera, monitors, all in obsessive detail. And then, without further preamble, Kogito is shown a number of film clips on the monitor: samurai fighting off a peasant army, and a modern game of rugby football. He recognizes it as scenes from a book he had written, entitled RUGBY MATCH 1860. In the novel, he had used the battle and the game as metaphors, but he intrigued by the decision of these filmmakers to film them literally, with an acute feeling for the Japanese atmosphere. He is told that what he has just seen is the only footage from the project so far shot, but the young filmmakers have run out of money; would he be willing to concede them the rights for free? Kogito's translator warns him that he is being ambushed, but he agrees, and the chapter ends.

The core of this chapter, I believe, lies in one of its smallest details, the samurai film clip. Certain aspects of it reflect other images we encounter involving Kogito's father, who appears to have been something of a philosophical leader of an ultra-right-wing movement opposing the Japanese surrender to the US. Kogito's own politics, on the other hand, are liberal, so perhaps he is the Changeling of the title? (Or one of them, along with Goro.) One begins to see that the whole novel is about change. In the background, there is the reconstruction of Japanese society after defeat. But this is worked out in terms of ideas -- translation between languages, translation of one medium into another (writing into film or opera), and perhaps (as the example above would suggest) the handing over of ideas from one generation to another.

The fractal metaphor works on the personal level as well. From what I can gather, this novel reflects themes from every other book that Oe has written, and these in turn reflect the author's life. His brother-in-law was indeed a famous film director, Juzo Itami, who committed suicide in a similar way. Like the fictional Kogito, Kenzaburo Oe has a son who was born brain-damaged, barely able to communicate in words, but who eventually found success as a composer. All Oe's novels contain such a character, and the writer has spoken of his aim to give his son a voice denied to him in life. While the composer-son plays a relatively small role here, Oe shifts the relationship back a generation, as Kogito tries to understand the legacy of his own father and the huge changes between the Japan of his time and that of the present. The themes of rebirth and the passing of the torch between generations become clear only at the very end, but after so much mind-play they bring a lovely touch of simple human emotion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unique masterpiece
Kenzuboro Oe deserved the Nobel prize but is a very erratic writer with some defective works interspersed with major accomplishments. This book may be his best. It certainly is quirky so that it may not be to everyone's taste. The story which intertwines lives and changes narrative perspective (successfully) in the last section actually revolves around tape recordings by a person who committed suicide after a triumphs in the movies in a dialogue with a novelist who shares traits with the author. Quite a conceit. The pivotal event in the past deals with the novelist's father's last patriotic suicidal attack on a bank. The novel is richly textured, very vivid, carefully reflective, the characters extremely well portrayed. Sometimes the writing seems as if were meant to be translated as explanations of Japanese phrases follow. Immersion in this book will produce a profound understanding of post World War II Japanese reactions and the intellectual world that then developed. An adventure indeed and one worth taking for any lively mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great work
I had previously read A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend this book as well. ... Read more

7. Grand Street 55: Egos (Winter 1996)
by Kenzaburo Oe, Deborah Treisman, Grand Street Editors
Paperback: 255 Pages (1996-01-02)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$11.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1885490062
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8. An Echo of Heaven
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 208 Pages (2000-07)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$55.41
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Asin: 477002505X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A group of Mexicans sit in the desert, gazing up at the image of their new saint--a seductive woman with a smile like Betty Boop's--projected onto an outdoor screen. The woman is Marie Kuraki, recruited to act the part of a "sorrowing mother," to help unite the workers on a cooperative farm in a remote village in Mexico.

By becoming a "saint," Marie, an unbeliever in search of spiritual peace, reaches the end of a long journey induced by a series of personal tragedies: above all, by the death of her two sons, which happened when one of them was pushing his brother in a wheelchair along a path above a cliff by the sea.

To rebuild her life, Marie leaves her home in Japan to go to a commune in California, under the shy guidance of a guru called Little Father; then on to Mexico, where she falls briefly under the spell of the Dark Virgin of Guadalupe; and finally to a mountain village in the shadow of an Aztec pyramid. There she offers what's left of her life to the local people, who come to venerate her, though her own faith remains as enigmatic as before.

An Echo of Heaven presents an astonishingly fresh and penetrating portrait of a woman of independent character and strong physical appetites, looking for a way to understand the mystery of her life. It is a work by a Nobel Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers.Amazon.com Review
In An Echo of Heaven, Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oetells the riveting story of Marie Kuraki, a seductive, perverseintellectual whose two young sons, one retarded and one crippled,commit suicide. Thus begins Marie's intellectual, spiritual, andsexual journey to find meaning in this horrific tragedy. Oe, who drawsa provocative but sympathetic portrait of Marie, supplements hisnarrative with old letters and journal entries from those whose livesshe influenced.

Oe's prose (as translated by Margaret Mitsutani) is cold and precise,perhaps to maintain emotional distance since Oe himself has a mentallyhandicapped son. The description of Marie's quest also affords him theopportunity to engage in profound reflections on faith, sin, death,sexuality, heaven, and hell. --Madeline Crowley ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars An Echo of Sickness
Oe Kenzaburo is an immaculate writer.His humble, honest and beautiful prose is as lucid as ever, and his ability to convey the tragic inner madness of Kuraki Marie is disturbing.

This nonfiction book is a biopic of Oe Kenzaburo's friend, Kuraki Marie.Kuraki Marie is a stalwart an outspoken person, one in which her personality will make the reader either love her or hate her.There is very little middle ground, as she is openly confrontational about her beliefs and what is appropriate for herself and, to a lesser extent, those around her.While I do not want to tell future readers exactly what kind of tragedy befalls Kuraki, I will say that it is a tragedy involving her family that one can easily see as making a person descend into a despair that one may very well never climb out of. . .

While tragic novels are not typically something I shy away from (I think Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" is a masterpiece) I cannot truly love this nonfiction novel.For me, and this may just be my personal taste, I find Kuraki Marie distasteful.Even before her tragedy occurs she has the makings of a person who prizes theatrics in speaking to consciously create her own character.A case in point is when she is describing how Flannery O'Conner's short stories have played a central role in how she interprets the world.It is not that O'Conner's works are bad, because in reality they are brilliant, it is how she speaks in a manner which leaves others with the impression that she is trying to forcefully make you want to read O'Conner's works to understand the world. (Hell, even Oe Kenzaburo started reading O'Conner afterwords.) If you think of how a christian zealot comes onto you, it is a little more subtle than that, but essentially it leaves you with the same bitter aftertaste.

As for Kuraki Marie after the tradgedy involving her family, she takes misery to an extreme level.I am not trying to lessen her tragedy, because you can tell from her letters to Oe that she is indeed suffering a world of pain which has no end, yet her personality makes me have little sympathy for her.She takes what emotions she has and projects them onto others surrounding her, almost in a way that makes me believe that she wants others to sink into her miasma as well, not just to illicit sympathy.And once again, her tragedy is a play, as if she cannot detract her true sorrow from the theatrical airs she puts on.

All in all, I find that this is a valid novel, one in which Oe must have felt some disquiet, almost like a reflection of what was going on in his soul during the writing process.It left me feeling reflective in an uncomfortable way, and I think that may have been Oe's intent.I give this novel 4 stars because whether I found it entertaining is not the goal of this novel.I think that the purpose was to make the reader reflect on how he or she acts in front of others.Do we say what we truly mean, or do we use theatrics to get our meaning across?Maybe that is why I disliked Kuraki, because her mannerisms are a reflection of the ugliness inside of me which I want to shy away from.

2-0 out of 5 stars Dull, dull, dull
I ussually finish a book I start, and this book was no exception.I think the reason I decided to read it is because its author won the Nobel Prize in 1994, and one should read something by such winnners--tho there are many I have not, yet, read anything by.This book tells of atragedy which Marie suffers and how she is devastated by it.It also tells of her promiscuous sex life, and of her flitting from one interest to another, but I could not care about her and while the translation is eminently readable I kept thinking "why should I care about this woman?"I never found an answer.I cannot recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an interesting experience.So why did I write this?Since there are only two reviews I thought one should get another viewpoint on the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Echo of Heaven
Kenzaburo Oe is one of the best writers I have ever read.In Echo of Heaven, we see some of Oe himself in his dealings with Marie Kuraki.Marie's experiences are unimaginable, and yet she somehow continues on inlife. Oe's true brilliance comes out in his most recent work.I found thatthe more I read about Marie and her life, the more anxious I would becomeand want to continue reading. I was totally mystified with Kenzaburo'swords, and most importantly,in his description of his dreams of Marie. Oehumored me in the way he views Marie with her Betty Boop lips.Hisdescriptions are unforgettable.Though Marie eventually lives out her lifeas a saint we feel her pain throughout her life.What is important is theimpact that Oe produces when describing Marie's experience.I recommendthis book to anyone who enjoys modern literature.

4-0 out of 5 stars A story about a woman's loss and how (& why) she lives on.
The author writes about a woman named Marie Kuraki.Marie suffers the worst kind of losses imaginable.Yet, she never gives up on life.She is devoted and relentless in the pursuit of her beliefs -- a modern day saint.Despite her reputation for selflessness, she refuses to succomb to her image as a saint and steadfastly presents herself as a woman -- a human being at all times.Oe presents her story in a detailed, loving, and non-glorifying manner.
It's a great read, but brace yourself, Marie's losses are devastating. ... Read more

9. Hiroshima Notes
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 192 Pages (1996-06-07)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802134645
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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A moving study of the Hiroshima bombing and its horrific aftermath by the 1994 Nobel laureate for literature provides an eloquent account of the victims of the atomic blast, the efforts of caregivers, and the devastating struggle to come to terms with the tragedy. Reprint. NYT. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars not about taking sides
The other long reviews do a decent job summarizing.But what's missed is Oe's moral stance--he isn't interested in "victimhood Olympics", whether the bombs were worse or as bad as Auschwitz; he's not even really interested in why they were dropped or if the decision made political and military sense from an American perspective, or even if the bombs might have shortened the war.He simply doesn't care about that sort of calculation and he's arguing that neither should you.Nobody despises Japanese militarism and colonialism more than Oe, so he's no apologist for the Japanese military or political leaders.Which is of course his point.His moralism is like Ghandi's: seemingly simple, but really only uncompromising.The book is about how ordinary people dealt with the consequences of the bombing.They are who matters to him and they will always be precisely who doesn't matter to political or military disucssions or to the victimhood Olympics.This book only looks simplistic or one-sided if you try to read it from those perspectives, which are Oe's target.I suppose the book is also an implicit essay on how hard it is to get people past their rationalizations.I mean, this book is as direct as it gets, but most readers, Japanese and otherwise, still refuse to see the point.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Honorable Authenticity of Survival
The book "Hiroshima Notes" is a collection of essays, journalistic in conception and in style, written by Oe Kenzaburo in the mid-1960s after his first visit to Hiroshima to report on an international conference there. Each essay might stand alone as a piece of impressionistic reflection; together they are somewhat repetitive and sprawling. Many of the concerns and most of the events are 'water under the bridge' by now, whatever the resolution has been, but the intensity of Oe-san's involvement with the mentality of Hiroshima and the Hiroshima survivors still has the power to compel an English reader to think and feel.

Don't look for Oe's characteristically bizarre, visceral prose style in these essays. At least in translation, they are written simply and declaratively, with extended passages of quotation from writings and interviews of the Hiroshima survivors themselves. Still, Oe's perceptions are complex and multi-faceted, not always consistent, and not always palatable to an "outside person" - a "gai jin" - particularly to an American who may be ready to defend the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of the two previous reviewers here on the River expresses that patriotic dudgeon quite vehemently. Oe - let's be honest! - regards the bombing as a crime against humanity comparable to the German genocide camps. [Please don't lambaste me in comments; I'm merely reporting, not advocating.]

In the preface to the first republication of Hiroshima Notes as a book, Oe wrote: "The realities of Hiroshima can be forgotten only by those who dare to be deaf, dumb, and blind to them."Read that sentence several times! It's not as straightforward as it seems. Why "dare"? Allowing for the difficulty of translation, still I think this sentence captures Oe's ambiguity about the remembrance of what he considers the cruelest punishment ever inflicted on any people in history. On the one hand, no one beyond Hiroshima should be so foolish as to forget exactly how horrible the atomic attack was. But on the other hand, Oe repeatedly expresses great admiration for the citizens of Hiroshima who have chosen to "forget" enough to seek full lives, to eschew victimhood, to avoid being viewed as mere evidence in the global anti-war movements. Be prepared to accept such ambiguity if you read Hiroshima Notes; Oe is able to express admiration and approval both for those Hiroshimans who choose to live on and those who choose to die by suicide.

Among the sites Oe visited in 1965 was the "A-bomb hospital", where he observed an aged survivor, quite near death after a 20-year battle with radiation sickness, who described himself as one of the "people who go on struggling toward a miserable death." This Mr. Miyamoto is one of those whom Oe considers "authentic" people. Oe says: "As I understand it, Mr. Miyamoto left this phrase with the strongest sense of humanism, for he did not lose courage even while struggling for nothing more tha to give meaning to the time when his own death came. It is this understanding that the existentialists first made clear. In this sense, Mr. Miyamoto is representative of the moralists of Hiroshima." Mr. Miyamoto was, it turns out, the only gravely ill patient at the hospital who 'dared' to venture outside to cheer a march of anti-nuke demonstrators. He died between Oe's several visits to the hospital.

In the fourth of Oe's essays, titled "On Human Dignity", the author wonders about the choices the survivors have made in retaining and perpetuating their memories. "It is not strange," he writes, "that the whole human race is trying to put Hiroshima, the extreme point of human tragedy, out of mind. ....we know that grown-ups make no effort to convey their memories of Hiroshima to their children. All who fortunately survived, or at least luckily suffered no radiation injury, seek to forget..." But elsewhere Oe supports the will to forget which enables the people of Hiroshima to seek to normalize their lives. Ambivalence is not necessarily incoherence or folly, I would argue, when considering the authentic human response to an unprecedented catastrophe. The German writer W. G. Sebald was also perturbed and preoccupied with the 'forgetfulness' of adults in post-war Germany. Oe and Sebald were close in age, essentially of the post-war generation who had to learn about the war from the 'memories' of their parents. Sebald's well-known essay, On the Natural History of Destruction, offers a prfoundly interesting comparison to Oe's writing.

Remember that these essays date from 1965, in the era of MAD - of mutually assured destruction as a theory of deterence. Oe is clear that he regards even the possession of atomic weapons as incredible folly and a threat to the continuance of human existence. He writes: "Powerful leaders in the East and in the West insist on maintaining nuclear arms as a means of preserving the peace. there may be some room for various observations and rationales regarding the possible usefulness of nuclear weapons in preserving true peace; indeed printing presses all over the world are running off such arguments with all haste. But it is obvious that all advocates of usefulness base their opinions on the POWER of nuclear arms. Such is the fashion and common sense of today's world. Who, then, wants to remember Hiroshima as the extremity of human misery?" A few pages later, Oe quotes the European writer Celine: ""The ultimate defeat is, in short, to forget; especially to forget those who kill us. It is to die without any suspicion, to the very end, of how perverse people are. There is no use in struggling when we already have one foot in the grave. And we must not forget and forgive. We must report, one by one, everything we have learned about the cruelty of man.""

Few writers have ever succeeded in reporting the cruelty and perversity of man more vividly than Oe Kenzaburo. Few writers have ever testified more vividly to mankind's indomitable potential for courage.

4-0 out of 5 stars Lessons from suffering
Hiroshima Notes is a collection of seven essays written between August 1963 and January 1965 on the occasion of several visits by Mr. Oe to Hiroshima. The year 1963 was a watershed for Kenzaburo Oe. In 1963, his son was born with a lesion of the skull through which brain tissue protruded. Unable to decide if he should allow the child to die or agree to an operation which would leave his son permanently brain-damaged, Mr. Oe went on a reporting assignment to Hiroshima that resulted in "a decisive turnabout" of his life which, he says, "eschewing all religious connotations, I would still call a conversion".

The central figure of the essays is Dr. Fumio Shigeta, a medical doctor who was in Hiroshima on the day the A-bomb was dropped. He happened to arrive in the city to take up a new post just a week before the day of the bombing. It is through Dr. Shigeta that Oe learns how the bomb victims become social outcasts, have difficulties finding marital partners, get divorced because they cannot have children, hide in shame in the back-rooms of their houses for years, and commit suicide or go insane upon learning that they are diagnosed as having "an A-bomb disease". In the midst of this pain and suffering, Dr. Shigeta patiently applies his medical skills to help the victims. He ignores the stigma placed on the victims by Japanese society, and for him there is no taboo on issues like the genetic effects of the radiation.

Dr. Shigeta is the "authentic man" for Oe, a person who is "humanist in the truest sense ¡V neither too wildly desperate nor too vainly hopeful". A man of modesty, patience and perseverance, Dr. Shigeta appears to be the real-life counterpart of the fictional Docteur Rieux of Albert Camus's novel The Plague: "When Hiroshima was attacked by radiation - the plague of the modern age - the city was not specifically closed off. Since that day . . . Dr. Shigeta took upon himself the misery of Hiroshima, and has continued to do so for twenty years."

More than anything he saw in Hiroshima, it must have been the example of Dr. Shigeta that made Oe realize that there was just one answer to his own personal question whether his son should be operated to live brain-damaged thereafter or be left to die. If Dr. Shigeta could bear the suffering of thousands of strangers and dedicate his life to relieving their pain, then he could bear the suffering of raising a brain-damaged son. I believe it was this realization that made Oe wake up and face his own suffering: "I think it was in Hiroshima that I got my first concrete insight into human authenticity."

While the Hiroshima Notes are the central document of Oe's humanism, they also provide a uniquely Japanese view of the Hiroshima bombing. Oe examines the feelings of shame and humiliation in the victims, and the attempts of the people of Hiroshima to forget what he calls the "holocaust of the A-bomb".His tone is very restrained and unemotional, devoid of moralizing and anger. Any sensationalism is missing from Oe's writing. He does not accuse or explain, he simply reflects. At times, though, he gets tangled in his reflections. The most embarrassing example is his argument that the A-bomb would never have been dropped on Leopoldville in the Congo because the American decision makers wanted to drop the bomb only on a people with the "human strength to cope with the hell that would follow."This racist, muddled thesis is an absolute exception, however. A small stain on Oe's essays which shows that even a Nobel Prize winner with a conscience will get caught up in prejudices from time to time.

I recommend these essays to anyone who has read Kenzaburo Oe's "A Personal Matter" (the fictional account of the decision the author had to make with regard to his son), and to anyone who ever had to answer the question "why should I rather follow one course of action instead of another when both options involve me suffering?" ... Read more

10. The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo (Routledge Contemporary Japan Series)
by Yasuko Claremont
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2009-01-15)
list price: US$150.00 -- used & new: US$117.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0415415934
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Ôe Kenzaburô was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. This critical study examines Ôe’s entire career from 1957 – 2006 and includes chapters on Ôe’s later novels not published in English. Through close readings at different points in Ôe’s career Yasuko Claremont establishes the spiritual path that he has taken in its three major phrases of nihilism, atonement, and salvation, all highlighted against a background of violence and suicidal despair that saturate his pages. Ôe uses myth in two distinct ways: to link mankind to the archetypal past, and as a critique of contemporary society. Equally, he depicts the great themes of redemption and salvation on two levels: that of the individual atoning for a particular act, and on a universal level of self-abnegation, dying for others. In the end it is Ôe’s ethical concerns that win out, as he turns to the children, the inheritors of the future, ‘new men in a new age’ who will have the power and desire to redress the ills besetting the world today. Essentially, Ôe is a moralist, a novelist of ideas whose fiction is densely packed with references from Western thought and poetry.

This book is an important read for scholars of Ôe Kenzaburô’s work and those studying Japanese Literature and culture more generally.

... Read more

11. Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age!
by Kenzaburo Oe, John Nathan
 Hardcover: 259 Pages (2002-03)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$5.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000VYVIN8
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! is a virtuoso novel from one of today’s finestauthors. K is a famous writer living in Tokyo with his wife and three children, one of whom ismentally disabled. This child, Eeyore, has been doing disturbing things—behaving aggressively,asserting that he’s dead, even brandishing a knife at his mother—and K, given to retreat fromreality into abstraction, looks for answers in his lifelong love of William Blake’s poetry. As Kstruggles to understand his family and his place in it, he must also reevaluate his relationship withhis own father and the duty of artists and writers in society. A remarkable portrait of theinexpressible bond between a father and his damaged son, Rouse Up O Young Men of theNew Age! is the work of an unparalleled writer at his sparkling best. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Moving, Thoughtful, Layers of Meaning
This is my fifth Oe novel, and I am always surprised at how one theme manifests in myriad fascinating plots. However, I am not surprised that he was the Nobel laureate in literature for 1994. Oe's writing is dominated by his decidedly masculine presence, but never loses itself in it. His descriptive language is eloquent without becoming mired in flocks of adverbs and adjectives (thanks also to a fine translation). In each of the novels I've read, a parent faces the challenges of a handicapped son, just as has Oe in real life. But in each of his fictitious works, the handicap varies and never duplicates his son's challenges nor the challenges of the characters in his other books. Rouse Up is a closer parallel to Oe's own experience than any of his other novels. It is decidedly autobiographical. No doubt he has used the novel format to cause some things to have a more satisfactory outcome than they may have had in real life. For instance, according to the Afterword written by translator John Nathan, Oe gives the fictional son a more robust ability to express himself than his real-life son. As Nathan describes it: "he is able to express himself in words, conveying wit and tenderness and compassion and his own brand of reductive wisdom about the world as he experiences it." Oe's real-life son, Hikari, has the gift of music. Though profoundly brain damaged, he has made his man's mark in the world as a celebrated composer. In an interview, speaking of Hikari's healing music, Oe commented, "My son's music is a model of my literature. I want to do the same thing." [...] Rouse Up is about fathers and sons, about the elation and disappointments of parenthood, about the joys and burdens of responsibility. Every son's father will find himself there. And, ultimately, like Hikari's music and Kenzaburo's prose, the journey is about healing.

4-0 out of 5 stars More Rousing than Most Oe Novels
Of the Oe novels I've read, this is one of the better ones in my opinion. A low key, understated spirituality suffuses this novel, and the narrator's engagement with the poetry of William Blake adds resonance and depth to Oe's prose (which otherwise often strikes me as okay but somewhat flat).
While the work is fiction, it is crafted from events in Oe's real life and is thus more autobiographical than American readers may be comfortable with. This is a common feature of much Japanese fiction, as with the prewar I-Novels (shishosetsu) or the works of Shiga Naoya, though it is not an unknown phenomenon elsewhere--in fact, all fiction writers draw upon their own experiences to some degree. Here the degree is stronger, that's all. In any case, Oe has refined, sublimated, organized, and crafted his experiences into a fine, well-told story here.

The afterword by the translator is okay but not very helpful, basically quoting long passages from the novel as if you haven't just finished reading it. A few good insights pop up there nonetheless. His translation work itself, though, is as far as I can tell quite excellent.

5-0 out of 5 stars As much about poetic imagination as postwar Japan
torn between a redemptive vision of culture and a globalizing hegemony of the right, this is a splendid and pithy novel that unlocks the sublime visionary power of William Blake (as revolutionary figure) to do global work inside post-imperial Japan and the US/Anglo hegemony.The son is caught between Blake the father and Los the son, and figures a way forward for all:Mutual Forgiveness is the Path to Eternity, said Blake to real politik.I love this novel, it taught me more about Blake and poetry than most poems I read, odd for a Japanese novelist to be tutoring this way!

3-0 out of 5 stars Over My Head
This book has a lot of references to the works by William Blake, which makes it a difficult read.Additionally, Oe explains the writings of Blake and combines it with how it teaches him to understand his handicapped child.I felt like the novel was more autobiographical than fiction.Too deep for me at this point in my reading skill level.A good message though all throughout the novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars floating
As usual Mr. Oe's prose is sharp as a knife.As usual there is an odd humility (here in relation to the writings of William Blake). As usual we find ourselves thinking we are listening to the humble mumblings about some guy with a disabled child only to wake up somewhere quite different than we thought we were. As usual we read something entirely personal in its politic ...
What left me reeling was the way this novel floats between the fact of Mr. Oe's life and the fiction that the novel is.
Read it. ... Read more

12. Somersault (Oe, Kenzaburo)
by Kenzaburo Oe, Philip Gabriel
Paperback: 576 Pages (2003-12-03)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$8.23
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802140459
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Kenzaburo Oe is internationally recognized as one of the world's finest writers, and his achievements have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Somersault, the first new novel he published since winning the Nobel, departs radically from the autobiographical fiction he was known for, in a magnificent story of the charisma of leaders, the danger of zealotry, and the mystery of faith. A decade before the story opens, two men referred to as the Patron and Guide of mankind were leaders of an influential religious movement that fell apart when a group of their more radical followers plotted an act of terrorism. Now, after ten years of silence, they are ready to return to religious leadership - but old, new, and unexpected problems threaten them. As planning proceeds for the summer conference that will launch the new church in the eyes of the world, conflicts between various factions threaten to make a mockery of the church's unity - or something far more dangerous. Somersault is an astonishing achievement that again confirms Kenzaburo Oe's place among the world's most respected writers, even as it takes his body of work in fresh and fertile directions.Amazon.com Review
Writing a novel after having won a Nobel Prize for Literature must be even more daunting than trying to follow a brilliant, bestselling debut.In Somersault (the title refers to an abrupt, public renunciation of the past), Kenzaburo Oe has himself leapt in a new direction, rolling away from the slim, semi-autobiographical novel that garnered the 1994 Nobel Prize (A Personal Matter) and toward this lengthy, involved account of a Japanese religious movement.Although it opens with the perky and almost picaresque accidental deflowering of a young ballerina with an architectural model, Somersault is no laugh riot.Oe's slow, deliberate pace sets the tone for an unusual exploration of faith, spiritual searching, group dynamics, and exploitation.His lavish, sometimes indiscriminate use of detail can be maddening, but it also lends itself to his sobering subject matter, as well as to some of the most beautiful, realistic sex scenes a reader is likely to encounter.--Regina Marler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
This book is beautiful. It's not fast-pased; it's not thrilling; it's not edge-of-your-seat exciting. But it is beautiful. The writing is poetic and I found myself, as a writer, inspired and transfixed by the prose.

2-0 out of 5 stars Oe is disappointing on his musing about religion
A Personal Matter continues to be a favorite of this avid reader.Oe
decided to try something new and it just doesn't work.In exploring
values, beliefs he almost drills in some pretty boring characters.I
never put down a book partly read but this one was tempting.
Gad, a grind...Oe's strength is his play on words, come back master!

1-0 out of 5 stars slow start, slower ending
I picked up this book because I am interested in Japanese culture and figure a Nobel Prize winning author writing a novel about a religious movement in modern day Japan would be right up my alley.
After about 250 pages I kept telling myself "something will actually happen soon."Unfortunately nothing did.You could argue that the ending is climactic, but I argue that by the 400th page or so the reader will be so bored and in such a hurry to just finish this monstrosity that the ending will be of little interest and even less impact.

4-0 out of 5 stars Faith and Rebirth
"Somersault" by Kenzoburo Oe is an unusual novel for my own reading habits, though one that has a lot of appeal. Being interested in religion and spirituality, I was curious to see what he had to offer and say.

The novel follows a few characters, but they are all quickly joined together in the midst of the beginning of the Church of the New Man. Patron, the church's founder and leader, spent 10 years alone with his religious partner Guide, after they had done a "Somersault" and had claimed their old movement was all a big joke. The rise of a radical faction within that old movement prompted this dramatic event. It is the regathering of old followers and new that occupies much of the narrative of the book.

The book is filled with long dialogues and monologues, as characters' struggles and understandings of the Somersault, themselves, Patron, faith and God are all covered in this way. This means that monologues can run for a couple of pages as characters relate their pasts, their hopes, or Patron deals with his view of events.

It has been commented that the book lacks detail with the teaching of the movements. While the detail is rather sparse, there is enough content given to form some understanding of the main points of the church's doctrine and teaching. This develops through the book, a good example being the nature of Patron. The theme of repentance, renunciation of the world, trust in Patron, visions, prayer and so on are all there. The use of Biblical texts and some others are also there. For some more theologically minded readers, maybe more detail would have been nice, but the book certainly does not suffer for the lack of it.

Oe has dealt with a lot of different themes, and different ones will stand out to different people. Perhaps one that stuck with me was the nature of faith, and how it develops with various events and under differing external stimuli. Patrons 10 years of isolation were interpretted by the Quiet Women and others as his descent into hell, something Patron himself took up. The understanding of Patron's as somehow sacred also comes into view among different followers and their discussions.

Permeating the entire story is the Somersault like some shadow, and different groups' responses to it and the new movement come in for some heavy discussion among the various characters. The Technicians, the Quiet Women, Patron, Dancer, Ikuo, Kizu and others all have their own take on it.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and had a great time reading it. It is a thought provoking look into a religious movement that could be termed a cult, and the way in which people understand and develop their faith according to different events. Oe keeps things moving relatively well, and does not get bogged down in useless detail.

The characterisations are remarkably detailed, I found. They all had very distinctive personalities and idiosyncracies, which made them all the more life-like.

For something a bit different, "Somersault" is a fine read and a good story. Enjoyable to the last, I have to say that I recommend it to any who enjoy the themes that it deals with.

4-0 out of 5 stars a novel about groups, forbearance, and religious yearning

I just finished reading Somersault. Several interesting themes emerge.

First, on a sociological level, it seems that Oe is fascinated, even obsessed, by groups. Almost all of the characters belong to a group: the Quiet Women, the Technicians, the office staff, the Fireflies. Even the quasi-individualistic Kizu is first and foremost generically "a professor." Characters in this novel are always strongly identified with the group to which they belong. Strong individuals such as Gii emerge as leaders of a group. Is this emphasis on groups a Japanese thing, or is it uniquely Oe?

Keeping in the sociological theme, I think Oe paints Japanese society as chock full of forbearance. All the characters tolerated each other and tried to understand why all of the other characters did what they did. They all helped each other and were thoughtful to each other's needs. Nobody was mean-spirited. Even the strong-willed characters Gii and Ikuo were, at heart, incredibly nice people. Dancer was very polite throughout. Kizu was a kindly old professor. Ogi, the Innocent Youth, is the archetype example of niceness. Even the folks who tortured Guide were quickly forgiven. Is this emphasis on polite behavior, too, a Japaneseor an Oe-centric thing?

On the deeper, religious level I think it was always Oe's intent to leave the religious message from Patron deliberately ambiguous. In fact, the ambiguity of spiritualism is the take-home message of the novel.

How is this manifested in the book? Well, the vast majority of the principal players: Ogi, Dancer, Kizu, Gii, Guide himself, have no real religious conviction and are just drawn into Patron's inner circle via his cult of personality or (in the cases of Gii and Kizu) for ulterior reasons. Patron himself found his own mystical experiences incredibly ambiguous. Ikuo, a truly religious and earnest man, was not able to properly define his relationship with God, either, and this caused him tremendous stress.

The last page of the novel reveals Oe's core belief, but I don't want to give the game away. Let's just say that, if you believe in a traditional God, you might find yourself shaken to the core.

There is an exciting conclusion if you can muster up the patience to get there. There is a dramatic exchange in which Patron and Ikuo do the father-son thing, and another interesting scene where 25 women go potty together. But you have to perservere to the mid page-500's before you get those rewards.

The relation between Kizu and Ikuo is well-developed. I love the way Oe left the role of Dancer in this relationship ambiguous until the end. The relationship between Gii and Ikuo is also fascinating, and at the end, Oe foreshadows that some very turbulent times are still to come between these two strong-willed characters.

The book is as much an existential philosophical treatise as it is a novel. It also offers an important sociological perspective on modern-day Japan.

... Read more

13. The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath
by Kenzaburo, editor Oe
 Unknown Binding: Pages (1985)

Asin: B003TP0XD2
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars A personal touch to war
"The Crazy Iris" edited by Kenzaburo Oe is a collection of stories about the dropping the atomic bombs.These stories are not from a historical context or from a military standpoint, but of normal, relatable people.The stories cover the carnage seen through the eyes of a twelve year old to the memories of women going back thirty years to the high school they once attended.It also covers how the outlying villages were indirectly affected by the bombing through word of mouth and deaths of friends and families.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Point
I read The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath by Kenzaburo Oe for an assignment in my History of Japan class. It's a collection of short stories complied to mark the fortieth anniversary of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the book jacket says. I am not a fan of overly flowery language (though I suspect the collection wouldn't have sounded as such in its native tongue), but the stories get the point across. The point? Everyone was affected by those weapons, no matter how old you are, what you believe, what your country thinks you should believe, and so on and so forth. I myself do believe that dropping the bombs were warranted and ultimately served their purpose, but to read the tales of survivors in compact form puts things into perspective. I wouldn't wish these sort of memories on anyone. I wouldn't wish anyone to have this pain. I hope to God that moments like Hiroshima and Nagasaki are never forgotten, and that we learn from them.

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't Listen to A.B.C.D. Reader!
I'm writing this just to offer the opinion that A.B.C.D.'s review is biased (at best) and ultra-nationalist and revisionist (at worst).

Read this book and judge it for yourself.The various stories recount life in militarist Japan, horrifying scenes of atomic aftermath, and the desperate psychological and spiritual struggle to cope with the trauma of survival.This collection is a moving testament to its authors' experiences, but to say that it explicitly is anti-war or blames anyone for the atomic blast would not reflect the entirety of the book.The viewpoints and opinions of the authors are as varied as those of the Japanese themselves.

4-0 out of 5 stars A moving collection depicting the effects of the atomic bomb
Compiled by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, this is a collection ofstories depicting the effects on various people of the atomic bombing ofHiroshima and Nagasaki.The emotional, physical, and social scars aredelicately and movingly presented.Some readers might find a bit too muchsentimentalityfor their taste, but most of the stories are verystrong--especially the title story, by Masuji Ibuse, who also wrote themassive novelization of the bombing of Hiroshima, "Black Rain." Since it consists of short stories and is somewhat less harrowing than"Black Rain," it serves as a good alternative. ... Read more

14. A Healing Family
by Kenzaburo Oe
Paperback: 208 Pages (2001-05)
list price: US$14.00
Isbn: 4770027338
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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A Healing Family, Kenzaburo Oe's first book since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, is an intimate portrait of the people closest to him. Above all, it is about his son Hikari.

Hikari was born in 1963 with a growth on his brain so large it made him look as if he had two heads. His parents were told he might never be more than a "human vegetable" requiring constant care; but they took the decision to raise him. Today, despite autism, poor vision, and a tendency to seizures, their son is an established composer with two successful CDs to his credit.

Oe has often written about the sorrows and satisfactions of being the parent of a handicapped child, most memorably in A Personal Matter; but nowhere has his writing been more personal, more buoyant, more revealing than in this non-fiction work. Without diminishing the suffering that Hikari and his family have been through, he celebrates the victories that can be won, especially his son's gift for music--his own "language."

Friends make an appearance along the way--doctors, musicians, other writers--as do the themes that have preoccupied Oe all his life: the rights of the underprivileged; the moral authority of the survivors of the atomic bombing; the mystery of language. But his thoughts keep circling back to his family--to the healing power of the family, and the unwitting courage we can all find in ourselves.

The book is illustrated with sketches of family life painted by his wife. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars A book that I would read again later.
My first book by Kenzaburo was Silent Cry.Recently I read A Healing Family and found that I really liked it a lot.Yukari's illustrations were beautiful.This book made me feel closer to Oe's family.It is very heart-warming.

At the time I read it, I was in the process of deciding whether to get my wisdom teeth extracted by a dentist or an oral surgeon.I heard that my face would be bruised and swollen, my jaws unhinged, etc. after the surgery.It was quite unnerving just to think about it.Then I read that Hikari has to make weekly visits to the dentist, and that his epileptic pills make his gum terribly swollen.I felt that I am in a much much better situation than some people.It was a consolation to read this book.

One thing I don't quite like about most of Kenzaburo's books is that he refers to a lot of other European writers and their works, which I find hard to understand.Well, that's just my ignorance.

4-0 out of 5 stars Superb and touching portrait of a family.
Kenzaburo Oe, the Japanese novelist who won the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, was 28 when his son, Hikari, was born.This event was the most important in Oe's life.Born with a herniated brain, Hikari has needed almost constant care since birth."A Healing Family" is Oe's first non-fiction attempt to make sense of Hikari's life and the effect it has had on the people around him, most importantly his family.

This beautiful book shows the profound love, affection and pride the Oe family take in Hikari's accomplishments and happiness.From the age of five, Hikari has been obsessed with classical music, and eventually began to compose pieces for piano and violin.Much of "A Healing Family" concerns Oe's attempts to understand his son through music.

"A Healing Family" is a book everyone should read.Finely crafted, perceptive, intelligent and moving, it shows us again that compassion and empathy can make all the difference in the world.

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, soothing book of love....
Hard to believe that no one else has written a review of this book becauseit is excellent...Oe's manner of dealing with his son's affliction andthe effects it has on his family is truly amazing...His manner is trulyone of love and serenity....Without any reservations, I recommendthisbook to anyone who wants to know more about "heart"... ... Read more

15. The Marginal World of Oe Kenzaburo: A Study in Themes and Techniques
by Michiko Niikuni Wilson
Paperback: 168 Pages (1997-04)
list price: US$21.95 -- used & new: US$20.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1563245809
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16. Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself: The Nobel Prize Speech and Other Lectures
by Kenzaburo Oe
Hardcover: 128 Pages (1995-04)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$60.85
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Asin: 4770019807
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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In December 1994, on the acceptance of only the second Nobel Prize awarded to a Japanese writer, Kenzaburo Oe gave a speech that was a message for mankind: one that pledged his own faith in tolerance and human decency, in the renunciation of war, and in the healing power of art--the power to calm and purify.

Other key addresses he has given elsewhere join the Nobel lecture in this volume, giving a wider view of the work of a literary activist who sees himself as one of a dying breed in the intellectual life of his own country.

Even those unfamiliar with his writing will be stimulated by the free-ranging thoughts of one of the century's most brilliant minds.

Included in the book are "Speaking on Japanese Culture before a Scandinavian Audience," "On Modern and Contemporary Japanese Literature," "Japan's Dual Identity: A Writer's Dilemma," and "Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A window into Japanese literature in English
This book shares the Nobel Prize speech and other lectures given by Kenzaburo Oe. The book is split into four chapters. 1. Speaking on Japanese Culture, 2. On modern and contemporary Japanese literature, 3. Japan's dual identity and 4. Japan, the ambiguous and myself. The book is a translation of his speeches given in Japanese to English.
The author provides insights into a wide range of topics including "the Yamato spirit", Japanese consumerism and character, Japanese literature and his speech when accepting the Nobel Prize. An informative and interesting book about Japanese literature, the author's life and Japanese culture.

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful experience
I discovered this book thanks to Orson Scott Card, who speaks of it in "Children of mind". It is a powerful book, but hard to read. You can't feel the same way before and after havieng read this book. Oe writes with his heart, each word is a part of his mind. He's a very smart person, but seems so nice! I can't describe my true feelings about this book. The vision and explications of the "peripherical nations" is so interesting, whereas it's an uneasy subject. One advice: read this book. I'm a french reader, and I did it ("Japan, the ambiguous and myself" isn't translate in french). So you can!!! ... Read more

17. Faulkner and Oe: The Self-Critical Imagination
by Akio Kimura
Paperback: 208 Pages (2007-01-26)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$19.95
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Asin: 0761836632
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For Oe Kenzaburo, a Japanese novelist who won the 1994 Noble prize in literature, William Faulkner is not so much a father of Yoknapatawpha as he is a critic of the masculine possessiveness attributed to the creation of the imaginary county. Faulkner and Oe: The Self-Critical Imagination focuses on the Faulknerian influence on Oe's satirical or self-critical imagination-especially on his feminist or hermaphroditic criticism of the male _I_ contained within the shosetsu (novel). Akio Kimura expertly investigates Oe's feminist turn in his novels in the 1980s as a criticism of this _I_ as an authoritarian first-person narrator. Oe considers this concept to be a disruptive reflection of Japanese society's established order.Oe's response to such a disruption is the introduction of a series of metaphors utilized in order to represent Faulkner's individualism and the subsequent deconstruction of Japanese autocracy. Drawing on Kofman, Irigaray, and Derrida, this book explores how Faulkner's individualism inspires Oe to juxtapose the Japanese authoritarian and the Faulknerian self-critical. Kimura explains that Oe's intensive reading of Faulkner's later novels-The Town, The Mansion, A Fable-has brought him a sense of ambiguity, or his awareness of being split between the Japanese _I_ and the Western _I._ By comparing these two significant novelists, this study acutely highlights the generic difference between the novel of the West and the Japanese shosetsu. ... Read more

18. La Presa (Spanish Edition)
by Kenzaburo OE
 Paperback: Pages (1995-01)
list price: US$27.20 -- used & new: US$27.20
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Asin: 8433906674
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19. M/T to mori no fushigi no monogatari (Japanese Edition)
by Kenzaburo Oe
 Tankobon Hardcover: 404 Pages (1986)

Isbn: 4000001981
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by Lindsley Cameron
Hardcover: 240 Pages (1998-06-12)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$9.51
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Asin: B000H2M3WY
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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The most popular classical composer of our day was born with a medical deformity so severe that his parents had to fight to keep him alive. When the child of novelist Kenzaburo Oe and his wife, Yukari, was born with a herniated brain, the doctors recommended letting him die. Instead, his parents defied Japan's then-harsh customs and saved him with a complicated operation that left him severely handicapped. They named him Hikari, which means "light"; now in his thirties, with an I.Q. of 65, limited language and motor skills, and an inability to express emotions clearly, Hikari has indeed become a beacon of inspiration. He has miraculous musical gifts, including a phenomenal memory and the ability to compose chamber works that have broken sales records and delighted hundreds of thousands of listeners.

His father's boundless love for and devotion to Hikari have been inspirational in more than one way. Kenzaburo Oe has written many novels and essays based on the experience of raising his musical-savant son, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994. His stories and novels have been translated into many languages and read by millions.

Based on exclusive access to the Oe family, as well as interviews with brain specialists and performers of Hikari's music, and including assessments by leading music critics, The Music of Light offers a portrait of uniqueness. Hikari is the only savant known in history who has composed original music. Lindsley Cameron explains how his brain works; how he can express sadness in his music but not with language or his face; and how his musical activities have extended his mental capacities. The creative interdependence of father and son is unprecedented, too. Kenzaburo's need to give Hikari a voice was so essential to his own art that he announced, just before winning the Nobel Prize, that he was giving up writing fiction because Hikari, through his music, had now found a voice of his own. Cameron shows how writing has allowed Kenzaburo to explore possibilities too painful to confront in any other way. The Music of Light explores the mysteries of the human brain, and reveals the miraculous power of creativity.Amazon.com Review
In The Music of Light, Lindsley Cameron chronicles theJapanese writer Kenzaburo Oe's remarkable relationship with his sonHikari.Although Hikari was born with a severe brain deformity thatresulted in retardation, autism, near-blindness, and poorcoordination, he has become an accomplished composer of classicalmusic. Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize forLiterature, has written much about Hikari and the rest of his familyover the years. Cameron studies the intersections between Oe's lifeand work in this volume. She also discusses the nature of creativity,the scientific theories about brain injuries, and the history ofmusical savants.

Oe's close relationship with his son is unusual, especially inJapanese society, where men do not usually get very involved withraising their children. While helping Hikari deal with his healthproblems, the Oe family struggled to cope with their culture's severediscrimination against disabled people. Cameron describes Hikari'smusical development and his amazing ability to memorizesongs. Hikari's life story is an inherently fascinating one--a man whocannot express himself very well verbally somehow figured out how todo something most people cannot do: make up songs. Cameron interviewedboth men and other family members for this book, and has done a goodjob of capturing their personalities on paper.Hikari and KenzaburoOe influence each other's work tremendously, and the elder Oe'swriting and fame have had an enormous impact on the family's life.Fans of Kenzaburo Oe and people who are interested in the roots ofcreativity will find a lot to like in this book. --JillMarquis ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story
I think the 5 stars are more for Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe than the author. Not that the books isn't well written, it is or I would feel so compelled to give Hikari and Kenzburo the 5 stars. The discussion of Kenzaburo's literary works gets a bit long for my taste, but they are critical to understanding the story of this family, the difficult decision of whether to try to save a child that will never grow up to be "normal", whether to defy the customs of the day that keep the handicapped hidden and treated as shameful, the burden that the decision becomes to the family, and the child who becomes an astonishing popular composer of classical music despite his mental and physical handicaps.

Having read the book I want to hear Hikari's music and read Kenzaburo's novels.But mostly I wish I could give them a hug for defying conventions and showing the world, for giving hope to all who struggle with handicaps that they too can be wonderful.

4-0 out of 5 stars This has probably changed many lives
This is the best book I've read this year. It covers so much: a family's love for their brain damaged child and their commitment to the grueling, challenging years raising him in a society that wants him to just disappear. It is at once literary criticism, classical music criticism, cultural commentary, biography, pschology, psychiatry, medicine and a touchingly told love story between man and son. By the end of this book you will have fallen in love with Hikari the sweet savant from Kobe and his wonderful father, Kenzaburo. ... Read more

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