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The Stones Cry Out by Hikaru Okuizumi

The Stones Cry Out (original 1994; edition 2000)

by Hikaru Okuizumi

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926131,245 (4.04)34
Title:The Stones Cry Out
Authors:Hikaru Okuizumi
Info:Harvest Books (2000), Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:read, not kept, books I have read
Tags:in: bm, japan, post-conflict, wwii, geology, personal history, june, 2012, tioli

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The Stones Cry Out by Hikaru Okuizumi (1994)



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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. ( )
3 vote lilisin | Apr 5, 2012 |
Tsuyoshi Manase, the book's protagonist, is veteran of Japan's campaign on the island of Leyte, who is haunted by what he witnessed in the waning days of Japan's last-ditch effort to defend the island. While hiding from the enemy surrounded unimaginable suffering men of his unit who plagued by hunger, thirst, disease, without arms, and encircled by rotting corpses try vainly to muster the strength to die honorably in one last charge of the enemy. Manase is able to gleams some solace in the dying words of Lance Corporal, who in another lifetime was a geologist, that would impact the rest of his life. After the war Mansae runs s successful book store, marries, and has children. Still haunted by his memories of the war, Mansae turns to stone collecting which quickly turns into an all-encompassing obsession, often taking priority over his family obligations. When tradegy strikes Mansae's favorite son, a budding geologist himself, Mansae begins to lose grip of reality. His family implodes unable to deal with the tragic end of such a young boy; too emotionally weak Mansae himself begins to whether away leaving nothing, but tragedy in the wake of a once promising life.

Okuizumi seamlessly intertwines Manse's memories, reality, and hallucinations into one beautiful and harrowing narrative. The mix of reality and the hallucinations are so well done that by the end of this very short book the reader is left wondering if Manse's entire life is nothing more than an illusion of a dying man in a forgotten cave on island surrounded by the dying and the fear of the unknown. With all the symbolism and the twist and turns that Mansae and his family are put through it's a wonder how Okuizumi is able to keep a coherent story together, but he does and what story he tells. Told in a wonderfully sparse but poetic prose from beginning to end, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this a must read for those interested in Japanese literature.

The book is remarkable, I only hope that they decide to translate more of Okuizumi's work into English soon. ( )
2 vote stretch | Jan 1, 2012 |
It's rare to look back on a book and find it perfect, but that's how I feel when I think about The Stones Cry Out. Manase is barely more than a boy when he ships off to the Philippines to fight in World War II. By this time, Japan is losing the battle and Manase, ill and separated from his unit, falls under the thrall of a mad colonel. His experiences waiting for rescue in a cave of dying men will haunt him for the rest of his life. At first, it seems that Manase has been successful in returning to civilian life - his business is thriving, his wife is content and he has two young sons. But not long after the birth of his first son, Manase picks up a single pebble from the river. Soon rock collecting is an obsession and Manase neglects his family in favor of becoming in amateur geologist.

This is a short novel with a strong impact. Each sentence is as polished as the stones Manase adds to his collection. Ultimately, it is a novel about different kinds of cruelty and failures -- the obvious, dramatic kind that are forced on you in a war and the quiet, subtle kind when, without realizing it, you choose not to be there for the people who depend on you the most. I was both happy and sorry to finish this novel - sorry because I didn't want it to end, happy because it no word was wasted and it was exactly the right length to tell its story. ( )
  cestovatela | May 20, 2007 |
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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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Translator for American version: James Westerhoven
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156011832, Paperback)

Hikaru Okuizumi's The Stones Cry Out traces 20-odd years in the life of World War II veteran Tsuyoshi Manase, a timid bookseller and amateur geologist who struggles to suppress a troubled conscience. More novella than novel, this brief but keenly realized story--for which Okuizumi won the Akutagawa Prize, one of Japan's highest literary awards--is a stark, disturbing, but ultimately redemptive meditation on remembrance and mortality.

At the novel's outset, Manase, weakened by malaria and hunger, finds himself languishing in a jungle cave with other hapless soldiers, many of whom are near death. The scene is hellish, fuel for future nightmares. "Even the most ordinary pebble has the history of this heavenly body we call earth written on it," a faltering lance corporal explains, a cryptic and riveting truth that sustains Manase and that he spends the rest of the novel attempting to unravel. When the war ends--and with the corporal's words still lingering--he opens a bookstore and then devotes himself to collecting stones. This obsession puzzles the woman he marries but becomes his only means of mooring a war-shadowed life.

Throughout, like some mute audience, is his immense and patiently gathered stone collection, evidence of Manase's desire for order and his need to understand something more enduring than his own passing life. The Stones Cry Out is a heartbreaking and harrowing tale, one whose most remarkable achievement is that, like the stones of its title, it reveals something greater than itself. --Ben Guterson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A Japanese novel on a bookseller whose life is one tragedy after another. One son is murdered, another turns revolutionary and the wife becomes an alcoholic. As if that is not enough, Tsuyoshi Manase is haunted by a World War II massacre of wounded Japanese soldiers by his own, who considered the wounded deadweight.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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