Kenzabur e uses an historical 1860 uprising as the basis for his dark novel of two bothers soul-searching, and enduring a personal crisis in postwar Japan, a world where existence and myth deliquesce to form a disturbing picture of the human predicament. For me, I believe Oe's Nobel prize was fully justified for his insight and humanity, and there was enough in the meaning and quality of the writing here that tells me this undoubtedly is rightly viewed as a masterpiece of postwar Japanese fiction, tainted with an irreparably spirited notion of being written in ancestral blood.
( Also on the negative side of the equation, there is plenty here that is kind of wifty-cosmic ala Vonnegut, or deliberately obtuse, grotesque in a way we'd now recognize as the tactic of director David Lynch.) The onslaught of intimidation and dread the narrator feels bounces back and forth from an internalization of events to the formation of a complex analogy of those same, or similar, outside occurrences. The string of disaster and violence our author observes from day to day becomes a kind of personal 'disgrace loop' for which he blames himself. A disabled child wasn't just a fiction for this book; the author was father to a similar case. A thorough study of the novel would include at least some familiarity with the author's intriguing biographical details. Closing the back cover on this book, emerging from the 'disgrace loop', feels like walking out of a prison.
***Ive tried to eliminate the spoilers; but be WARNED -- somewhat spoilery*** Early in the novel, the main character, Mitsu, finds himself in the pit where his septic tank will soon go. The world has become a septic tank and Mitsu is looking for a way out of the pit. Terrible things lurk just out of vision and appear in unexpected places. These things stick out like warts in the first few pages and highlight the monstrous conditions of modern life. It seems all too often that modern life offers us up routines and functions in place of meaning. The book starts with the main character discovering that his friend has committed suicide by painting his face crimson, sticking a cucumber up his anus, and hanging himself.
The Wikipedia article links to American football. I tried to kick it back", which doesn't sound like an American football does it? And Taka played American football at University? And he managed to buy loads of American footballs in Ehime in the 1960s? Can you even buy an American football in Ehime now?
Silent Cry, by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, takes place in Japan in the late 1960s, following Mitsusaburo, his wife Natsumi and his brother, Takashi as they return to the rural valley community where Mitsu's family has lived for over a century. Gravely, Mitsu's entire view of history and his brother comes into question by the end of the novel, and the reader is brought into this upheaval in a very real way. Just as Mitsu must re-evaluate his entire way of thinking about his brother, so too must we, as Mitsu's complicit followers, re-evaluate what we have read thus far, and how we feel about the characters. In another, however, it's frustrating because by the end of the novel we are so ingrained in our repulsion towards Takashi that to change our opinions is nearly impossible. The setting of the quiet valley town torn apart by modernization and a new generation is fleshed out well, and throughout the novel the internal monologue of the self-described rat, Mitsu, provides a framework through which we can relive events in his life and the lives of his ancestors in a unique and effective way.
In fact, The Silent Cry is the most frightening book I've ever read. The Silent Cry allegorized the shame of Imperial Japans defeat into a family that must face an existential horror akin to nuclear annihilation. Oe delivers a literary blow across the face that leaves us to solemnly reflect on our own personal hell and the will to start again, from nothing if need be.
To complicate reading matters, the first third or so of the book moves at a glacial pace, smothering everything in its slow-moving wake. The setting is a rural valley in post-WWII Japan where two brothers have returned to their family homestead, one from living abroad in America and the other, the narrator, from his middle-class life as a translator in Tokyo. The ghosts of dead siblings haunt the two brothers upon their return to the valley.