Synopses & Reviews
The first new novel Oe has published since winning the Nobel Prize, Somersault is 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. When a radical faction of their followers threatened to unleash an apocalypse, they recanted all of their teachings and abandoned their followers. Now, after ten years of silence, Patron and Guide begin contacting their old followers and reaching out to the public, assisted by a small group of young people who have come to them in recent months.
Just as they are beginning this renewed push, the radical faction kidnaps Guide, holding him captive until his health gives out. Patron and a small core of the faithful, including a painter named Kizu who may become the new Guide, move to the mountains to establish the churchs new base, followed by two groups from Patrons old church: the devout Quiet Women, and the Technicians, who have ties to the old radical faction. The Baby Fireflies, young men from a nearby village, attempt to influence the church with local traditions and military discipline. As planning proceeds for the summer conference that will bring together the faithful and launch the new church in the eyes of the world, the conflicting agendas of these factions threaten to make a mockery of the churchs unityor something far more dangerous.
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.
About the Author
Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1935 in Ose, a mountain village on Japans Shikoku Island. He graduated in French literature from Tokyo University and became a full-time writer in 1959. He has won many international literary honors, including the 1989 Prix Europalia and the Nobel Prize for Literature.