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A Personal Matterby Kenzaburo Oe
If you like your books to be a punch in the face, then consider A Personal Matter a good nose bleed of a novel. This is a depiction of human frailty, alienation, despair, and ultimate triumph. Coming to grips with the narrator proved to be quite a wrestling match — this complexity is what I like most about the story. Based on his own personal experiences, Oe offers a glimpse into complicated Japanese societal stigmas and how one man crumbles under their weight, only to reemerge upon humbly accepting the birth of his ill-fated son.
Synopses & Reviews
A Personal Matter is the story of Bird, a frustrated intellectual in a failing marriage whose utopian dream is shattered when his wife gives birth to a brain-damaged child.
"Without doubt Oe's awesome learning, frightening memory, complex ideas, unbridled imagination, resilient political will, and indiscriminate modesty tempered by absolute self-assurance make him the most formidable figure in the literary world of Japan now." Masao Miyoshi, author of Off Center: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States
"In Oe's books, everything has a peculiar sense of humor that is always on the verge of tragedy — a very dark humor." Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day
"Oe Writes like a new American realist....His prose is as direct and frank as an ice pick." Life
"Oe's themes of abnormality, sexuality, and marginality are outside the tradition of Japanese equipoise....His work has a gritty, grotesque quality, which makes him seem more akin to Mailer, Grass, or Roth than to many Japanese novelist." The New Yorker
Oes 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, Birds 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.
Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, is internationally acclaimed as one of the most important and influential post-World War II writers, known for his powerful accounts of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and his own struggle to come to terms with a mentally handicapped son. The Swedish Academy lauded Oe for his "poetic force [that] creates an imagined world where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today." His most popular book, A Personal Matter is the story of Bird, a frustrated intellectual in a failing marriage whose Utopian dream is shattered when his wife gives birth to a brain-damaged child. In writing novels there is no substitute for maturity and moral awareness. Kenzaburo Oe has both.”—Alan Levensohn, Christian Science Monitor
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