The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo
Routledge – 2009 – 224 pages
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.
"Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty."- CHOICE, R. L. Copeland, Washington University
"This review of his works and thoughts is undoubtedly the best primer now available for those wanting an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of a thinker and writer who has always had something of weight to say about today’s Japan." - IAN McARTHUR, The University of Sydney, JOSA Vol. 41 (2009)
Introduction 1. No Way Out 2. Breaking Free 3. Father and Son 4. The Silent Cry 5. Myth 6. Redemption and Salvation I 7. Redemption and Salvation II 8. Truth and Illusion I 9. Truth and Illusion II 10. Friendship and Brotherhood
Yasuko Claremont is a Senior Lecturer in modern Japanese literature at the University of Sydney, Australia.