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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Silent Cry" by Kenzaburo Oe

The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe  (1967-trans 1974 by John Bester-274 pages)

A  year ago I am sad to say I had never heard of Kenzaburo Oe.   Now, after having read and posted on four of his novellas, five novels, a work of non-Fiction on Hiroshima survivors, and a collection of short works by atom bomb survivors selected and edited by Oe I consider him one of the great literary artists of the post WWII period.   I see him as creating   original wisdom, something I would say of very few writers or thinkers.  Samuel Johnson comes to mind here.    The wisdom of Oe is that of a world turned inside out on itself, that of Johnson is of a world sure of itself.   The best of Oe feels not so much written as discovered.    Oe (1935) won the Nobel Prize for literature in  1994.     He is a towering figure in contemporary Japanese literature.   In a revealing scene in Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami the lead character says his family owns a simple neighborhood book store that sells popular books, not "Tolstoy or Oe". 

The Silent Cry centers on two brothers who return after WWII to their ancestral home town  in a village in rural Japan.    The village is now dominated by a Korean businessman ironically called "The Emperor".     One of the brothers has a mentally handicapped son (this is a frequent theme in the work of Oe and is a large factor in his own life) and The Silent Cry shows how he deals with this.   This is the first of the works of Oe I have read in which we see the effects  the birth of a mentally handicapped child has on the wife who is depicted as now very promiscuous and a lover of whiskey.

One of the brothers tries to come to understand why a long time friend had killed himself.    The other brother tries to lead the local youths in a rebellion against the domination of the Korean.    There is a lot of violence in this work and graphic sexual scenes.   I recommend this book to anyone who has read some of the better known works of Oe and enjoyed them.    
To me the work of Oe is a great world class cultural treasure.

Mel u


Rise said...

Great, mel. I have this same book in an omnibus edition that also contains A Personal Matter and Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness. I have had my eye on Oe after I read 2 of his minor works. I plan to read more of him & your review reminds me to do it soon.

ds said...

Mel, you are absolutely right, as I am discovering through reading Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, which collects four of Mr. Oe's shorter novels. The first one was The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away, and it was the perfect introduction to the beauty--and brutality--of Oe's style.
I have you to thank for the fact that I am reading him; I hope that I can do him justice.

Mel u said...

Rise-I hope you enjoy it and thanks as aways

ds-I cannot wait to read your post on When He Himself Shall Wipe Away My tears-the other works in the collection are really great also-suggestion-read next his collection of stories about the atomic bomb

@parridhlantern said...

This was the first book of his that I read & it made me want to learn more, loved your review, with it's comparison to Johnson.It's amazing how a writer can come into your life & make a big impact & through challenges like The Japanese Lit, I've found some writers like Oe who I might not have read & my reading life would have been poorer for it.

Mel u said...

parrish lantern-thanks very much-I agree totally