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A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe
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A Personal Matter (original 1964; edition 1995)

by Kenzaburō Ōe

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1,150187,093 (3.77)37
Member:chrisharpe
Title:A Personal Matter
Authors:Kenzaburō Ōe
Info:Picador (1995), Paperback, 165 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Norfolk Libraries

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A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oë (1964)

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» See also 37 mentions

English (15)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I have never cringed so much while reading a book. And I don't mean cheap cringes like you'd get from reading about an awkward adolescence, I mean serious, serious shrinking of the soul, some of it sympathetic and some not. What a horrific setup for a hugely cathartic ending. Nothing can match Bird's surreal and overblown fear of the "monstrous" infant or his self-loathing, so the ending is marked not by happiness and resolution but by a return to normalcy. Of sorts. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
A raw and powerful book about the brutality of life, human dreams, and dignity. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
I knew from early on this was a great book, but I also hated it, right up to the end. Then it redeemed itself. It a great story about a horrendous, damaged people, in a cold and severe culture, dealing with deep pain and helplessness. The only bits of lightheartedness were Oe's over-the-top poetic treatments of the most disgusting and awful things-- like vomiting, certain sex acts, and deformed babies-- so dark humor to be sure.

Oe's writing really does draw the reader into the distastefulness of the situation and the characters though. You feel dirty and immoral in Himiko's cave. You want to smack the doctors across the face. And you feel nothing for the mother or baby, who ought to be sympathetic characters. The book made me want to take a shower. Although I can't say I enjoyed reading this book I have to admire writing that powerful. All the more so since Oe himself is the father of a disabled son. I agree with the other reviewers who comment that the ending seems contrived and unbelievable, but I'm okay with that. I'm glad that corner was turned.

I don't know who to recommend this book to. It's a great novel, but painful to read. I imagine those who can handle it know who they are. 4 stars. ( )
  technodiabla | Jan 9, 2012 |
Fearful, angry, and unsure, the main character is Ōe’s novel is hard to sympathize with. It’s hard to even like him as he abandons his child (and his wife, for that matter) to take up drinking away and start an affair with another woman. This is a difficult, life-altering moment in a person’s life, and I would never expect someone to be all rainbows and sunshine about it. But his motivations for what he does seem to come from a desire to recapture who he was or who he could have been with another woman, with another life. He’s so selfish that him asking if the child can feel pain seems wholly out of character.

Read more on my blog: http://ardentreader.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/a-personal-matter/ ( )
  theardentreader | Jul 26, 2011 |
This is a novel in which a marginally-employed cram school teacher in Tokyo deals with the birth of a son with a deformity. He goes through the denial, anger, and acceptance phases typical in a personal tragedy. I don't want to hint at the ending, other than to say that I find it atypical of Japanese culture and literary tradition. The premise of the story, however, strikes me as particularly Japanese. The degree of shame associated with the birth of an abnormal child suffered by Bird may be a bit odd to the Western reader, and probably will be to a modern Japanese reader as well. However, I believe Oe did a good job of capturing the stark terror, frustration, and bewilderment of Bird as he deals with his family's predicament. ( )
1 vote ninefivepeak | Oct 23, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kenzaburo Oëprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marshall-van Wieringen, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reiling, HenriCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warburton, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
ZenoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mentre mirava el magnífic mapa de l'Àgrica col·locat dins l'expositor, elegant i orgullós com un cérvol salvatge, en Bird va reprimir un breu sospir.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802150616, Paperback)

Oe’s 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, Bird’s 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:43 -0400)

Publisher description: Kenzabur? ?e, 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. 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.… (more)

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