Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Aghwee The Sky Monster" by Kenzaburo Oe

Aghwee The Sky Monster  by Kenzaburo Oe

Greetings to My Visitors from Malolos
I am located in Quezon City
if you have any questions on this story or
any other matter please feel free to leave a comment

I had never heard of Kenzaburo Oe.   On starting my third work by Oe I now know to  expect a strange, wonderful work of art that will test and probably transcend my powers of understanding.    Aghwee the Sky Monster is a ghost story that almost serves as a coda to William Blake's more ethereal engravings.

      The narrator of the story, which is set ten years ago when the narrator was 18, recounts the first job of the narrator.  The opening remarks of  the story intrigued me

"Alone in my room, I wear a piratical black patch over my right eye.   The eye may look all right, but the truth is I have barely any sight in it...when I look at this world with both eyes I see two worlds perfectly superimposed.  A vague and shadowy world on top of one that is bright and vivid.  I can be walking down a paved street when a sense of peril and unbalance will stop me like a rat just scurried out of a sewer..Or I'll discover a film of unhappiness and fatigue on the face of a cheerful friend and clog the flow of easy chat with my stutter" 

Our narrator is a college student of eighteen and needs to get a job to make some money to buy books he wants.   His uncle introduces him to a wealthy businessman.   This man wants him to be a sort of watchdog for his thirty year old son.   The son is a fairly well known composer and is considered a rising star in the Japanese musical world.   The son has a serious problem. He has begun to imagine that a ghost in the form of a six foot tall baby will on occasion descend from the sky and be visible only to the composer.  Of course everyone comes to think of the composer as suffering from several delusions, including the composer himself.  The composer, called "D" seems attuned to another world when this ghost visits him.   Here is how D's nurse describes
the sky monster:

"He says it's a fat baby in a white cotton nightgown.  Big as a kangaroo...It is supposed to be afraid of dogs and policemen and it comes down out of the sky and its name is Aghwee.  If you happen to be around when the spook gets hold of him, you'd better just play dumb, you can't afford to get involved.   Don't forget you are dealing with a looney."

At this point I have a choice to make.   I can either go on to tell more of the plot of this marvelous story and spoil the surprises (there are some great ones) for first time readers or I can just talk a bit about why I like this ghost story so much.  

Here are a few of the reasons I like Aghwee the Sky Monster
as much as I do.  It helped me to understand what ghosts maybe. It shows us how the dead intrude on the living.   (We learn something terrible about the composer.)   We learn how there is no present, only the past intruding on the future.   How life is created by a story.   How guilt can make us feel our lives are frozen in place.  There is a deep sadness to this work but a sadness that is preferable to happiness.   There maybe a way out of loneliness.   Ten years after his employment with D terminates something horrible happens to the narrator through no fault of his own.   From this he learns to understand the sky monster.  

This work is only 38 pages long.   It is included in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness.   This is a collection of four short novels translated from the Japanese by John Nathan.   It was first published in 1964.   There are any number of themes in the work that I have not talked about.   Many may be intrigued by other things in the work.   It helped me understand why I sometimes see cats in the sky.   From now on I will look for them.   



ds said...

Fascinating!Will try Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness again. More importantly, I hope you and your family are all right, and that the waters are receding...

Suko said...

Aghwee The Sky Monster sounds fascinating and profound, perfect for Dolce Bellezza's JLC-3 and Carl's R.I.P. IV.

Mel u said...

DS-we are all fine-too my daughters it is a week long holiday!-I hope you will try some of the works in Teach us to outgrow our Madness as I would love to see your comments

Suko-yes and it really is a lot of fun to read-two terrible things are relayed in the story but some how it is still a gentle work