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The Stones Cry Out (1994)

by Hikaru Okuizumi

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1508179,693 (3.99)39
At the end of World War II, Tsuyoshi Manase returns to civilian life, runs a bookstore, marries, and has two sons. Despite his efforts to maintain an ordered existence and suppress a troubled conscience, his past as a solider insinuates itself in Manase’s life in this haunting tale of guilt, memory, and expiation. Winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Translated by James Westerhoven.… (more)
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» See also 39 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
An interesting story. At first, it just seems an ordinary short story of the life of a man who survives the horrors of WWII.
He picks up life after returning to Japan and does rather well.
Only near/at the end of the book it appears that nothing really was what it seemed. Manase is still being haunted by... Well yes, by what or who? ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 24, 2019 |
This was a mesmerizing, but confusing tale. It's the story of stones. Manase was book store owner whose main interest was geology and stones. This interest started at the time he had been a soldier in Leyte (Philippines) and encountered a dying lance corporal who was a stone expert. After the war, Manase married and had two children, but only one of them was interested in stones.

A strange part of this stone story was a scene that kept replaying throughout the book. We don't always know exactly what happened in each scene, but we do know that each time it took place in a cave with a light in the distance. Various people entered this cave, resulting in different outcomes at the end of each cave scene. Which scene was the true story? Which scenes were hallucinations? Were any of them true?

Beyond that, we experienced the disintegration of a family: Manase, his wife, and their two sons. How did that happen? More importantly, why?

Stones are a fascinating feature of this novel. They brought back memories of when I was a kid and used to collect rocks. I took a hammer and smashed them open to see what was inside to try to identify them. I loved reading about how the older son Haraoki would work with his father on collecting and identifying stones. That part of the story I found quite heartwarming. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Feb 11, 2018 |
Tsuyoshi Manase seems to have found a happy ending after the horrors of World War II. He takes up his father’s business selling old books and is successful. He marries, has two sons, and leads a seemingly placid life. He might be a bit eccentric, with a serious hobby collecting rocks, but he is stable and hardworking. However, his hobby stems from an incident during the war, where Manase was trapped in a cave with a dying man who rambled on about stones. Some of those memories remain fresh and occasionally trickle into his dreams, while everything else about the war – and even his day-to-day life – slips away. But for the most part, Masase appears to have escaped from the horror of those days. Unfortunately, he cannot escape the past, which appears as a family tragedy and leads inexorably to an unhappy end. Although this book is quite short, it packs a punch. The prose is simple and smooth, providing a sharp contrast to the sudden reversals or agonizing decisions in the story.

Manase obsessively collects and studies stones, becoming something of an amateur expert and making several small but impressive discoveries. At first, his hobby doesn’t seem too threatening or limiting. The world of stones, as described by the lance corporal in the cave, stretches back billions of years and is an always changing cycle of decay and renewal. There is a connection, both with the outside world and Manase’s past. But after the family disintegrates, the stones are symbolic in a more disturbing way. Perhaps a more pedestrian view of them would be as mute, lifeless things, an appropriate symbol for Manase’s response. At some critical moments, Manase can’t communicate. Even his painstaking work preserving slices of stones seems like a sad shadow of Manase himself, stuck in his unchanging life even as other people are moving on and growing up.

The straightforward prose also works well when, later on in the novel, several plot elements are left ambiguous or surreal. There is a feeling of everything being circular and inescapable – motifs repeat throughout the years, some elements strongly parallel earlier ones (two caves, two stones mutely witnessing pivotal events), and Manase picks at and analyzes his memories, just as he does his stones. Even with his years of study, Manase seems stuck using the words of the lance corporal to describe his stones. A tense and powerful read – recommended. ( )
3 vote DieFledermaus | May 5, 2015 |

A very satisfying and excellently translated novella, slow-moving but no longer than it should be.

Tsoyoshi Manase spent the latter days of WWII in an Allied POW camp; before that he spent an indeterminate period holed up in a cave surrounded by his starving and/or wounded comrades. In charge was an officer with a ruthless approach: anyone too weak to forage for food should be slain with the officer's ceremonial sword so as not to be a drain on the others. Scarred for life by the experience, Manase nonetheless brought from it one good memory, that of a dying lance corporal explaining to him the wonders of geology: "Even the smallest stone in a riverbed has the entire history of the universe inscribed upon it."

The first of the book's three chapters tells -- in between flashbacks to the horrors of the cave -- of Manase's life after the end of the war, as he develops a passion for amateur geology, in particular for collecting and classifying rocks of different types. This is exquisitely done: I found myself sharing his sense of wonder, rediscovering all over for myself the beauty that those everyday stones represent.

The other two chapters are more straightforwardly eventful. Manase's elder son Hiroake inherits his father's passion for rocks, and the two become boon companions, exploring the neighbourhood together, hammers in hand. But then one day while Manase is away at a geological conference Hiroake goes exploring without him, and is later found savagely murdered in the cave they'd both discovered contained green chert. In the aftermath, Manase's loveless marriage collapses; his younger son Takaaki, with whom he's never particularly gotten on, is raised with Manase's sister's family. Loathing his father for this rejection, Takaaki grows to become an especially ruthless member of one of Japan's leftwing terrorist groups, eventually dying in the traditional hail of police bullets. And now Manase blames himself for the death of both sons . . .

The denouement is a marvelous tour-de-force, a piece of visionary writing that acknowledges the possibility of the explanation I'd come to predict yet was so much more than that that I wondered how on earth I might have felt satisfied with the obvious. This is a slight and sorrowful book that I suspect I'll remember long after the details of its plot have faded from my mind.
( )
1 vote JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
I had this book on my Amazon wishlist for about a year but I kept not buying it in thinking I needed to reduce my TBR pile first. But serendipity had the book sitting on the shelf right in front of me on my first visit ever to Half Priced Books. At that point I couldn't resist and I'm glad I didn't.

Manase is an amateur geologist who found his passion while fighting the war in Leyte. A dying lance corporal, a geologist himself, tells Manase how the smallest stone carries the history of the universe. He comes back from the war and starts a wonderful life as the owner of a book shop with his wife and two kids, spending his spare time sharpening and polishing his geology skills. To his great happiness, his oldest son begins to experiment with geology and they are able to form the most precious of bonds. But when his son goes out one night and doesn't come back, Manase's life quickly falls apart.

While the great love for his oldest son is endearing, you feel pity for his suffering youngest boy. And while you can feel his passion for geology you can only feel sorry for his wife and she loses her mind after the loss of her little boy. Okuzumi is masterful at exploring Manase's deterioration as the memories of his time in the war intertwine more and more with his memories of today. It's a world of extremes in Manase's world but in the end, it all turns into dust like every rock must do before it can become a rock again in another life.

A great metaphor on life, I'd say The Stones Cry Out is a must read in Japanese literature. ( )
4 vote lilisin | Apr 5, 2012 |
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He answered,
I tell you, if these were silent,
the very stones would cry out. 
LUKE 19:40
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Even the smallest stone in a riverbed has the entire history of the universe inscribed upon it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Translator for American version: James Westerhoven
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At the end of World War II, Tsuyoshi Manase returns to civilian life, runs a bookstore, marries, and has two sons. Despite his efforts to maintain an ordered existence and suppress a troubled conscience, his past as a solider insinuates itself in Manase’s life in this haunting tale of guilt, memory, and expiation. Winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Translated by James Westerhoven.

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