We’re going to cover Kenzaburo Oe’s remarkable A Personal Matter this week, simply as it was the last truly “OMG!” novel Mr. Wapojif read. He did so around this point last year, and was amazed by the short book’s compelling nature.
Oe, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, is a celebrated Japanese author who remains a living legend. He excelled as a writer when he was younger, rapidly becoming the spokesperson for his generation back in the ’60s. Out of it all came A Personal Matter, which was loosely based around his experiences with his son.
A Personal Matter
The story lays forth the plight of the rather pathetic character Bird in Japan, whose wife gives birth to a child with severe (and highly noticeable, due to a haemorrhage) brain damage.
Bird, who had been planning to move to Africa and pursue his intellectual dreams, flies into a complete panic.
Completely unnerved, the sense of shame he feels sends him into a self-pitying world of alcoholism and debauched behaviour.
He drunkenly begins an affair with a young woman, becomes erratic at work, and miserably fails to live up to his role as dutiful, supportive husband and father.
What follows is a real testament to an existential crisis (Oe was a huge fan of the likes of Sartre and Camus).
Ultimately he contemplates whether to destroy his son, thusly relieving himself of the magnitude of it all, although certain events occur which hint at the responsibility he now has.
Conclusion: Nobel Prize Worthy
Bold, brash, bleak, berserk, brilliant – this is one hell of a read. An incredible book by a genius, the only way to do it justice is to read the thing and enjoy it with gusto.
Do note, however, its themes aren’t for everyone. Anyone squeamish or easily offended will be offended and baulk at the book’s content, and although some of it may sound crass and childish, there is no doubt this is a work of high intellectual value.