The Geek book review of Kenzaburō Ōe’s Man’en Gannen no Futtoboru (万延元年のフットボール)

Man’enGannen no Futtoboru

Kenzaburō Ōe

First Published: 1960 

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Geek Rating: Mortal worthy (3 out of 5 stars)

“The things you believe you really saw — the memories you’ve been constantly raking over — were nothing more than dreams all the time.”

p22-maloney-oe-a-20160131First published in 1967, Kenzaburō Ōe’s Man’enGannen no Futtoboru (titled “The Silent Cry” in English) tells the story the story of two brothers Mitsusaburo and Takashi. Mitsu, as he was called, was an English professor in Tokyo, living with his alcoholic wife after having left their physically and mentally handicapped baby in an institution. His wayward younger brother Taka returns to Japan and together they return to their home village to deal with the family’s kura-yashiki — a traditional residence-storehouse – as Taka wanted to sell it to the ‘Emperor”, the wealthy Korean who is the most powerful figure in their village. With his gang, Taka sets off to dominate their village and bring back the glory days, organizing an uprising against the Emperor while relieving their family’s past.

Oe paints in this a book a humanity that is mad, opening the story with Mitsusaburo in a dark place, paving the way for the overall texture of the book: the lack of happiness in a world full of madness. For this reason, the book demands your entire focus and patience with little reward at the end.

The book conjures an unnecessary amount of sadness which will make the readers depress and after enduring a long and boring read, they will find that the lesson imparted at the end is not sufficed enough for the dark theme of the story, the brooding Mitsu or the craziness of Taka. The younger brother has had his reasons for his crazy actions but did not really warrant such craziness while Mitsu’s problems couldn’t be enough reason for his negative, too much negative, the opinion of life.

The problem with Oe’s The Silent Cry is that it glorifies the tragedy in its plot than delving deeper into the events in the story. There are no characters that readers will like as all of them seemed to glory on decay and depression than really live.

But still, Oe has created something important in this book. This is an essential read for those who want to learn more about the Japanese culture and history, for The Silent Cry paints the differing characteristics of Japan in 1960’s: a violent, noisy and smoky city and a rural one its people whose soul was shattered by the war.

About the author:

Oe-author-photoKenzaburo Oe is Japan’s most important living writer. Born in 1935 on the island of Shikoku, Oe studied literature at Tokyo University before spending the sixties in Paris where he came under the influence of Sartre. After his debut novel, he wrote a string of books dissecting contemporary Japan, including Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness, Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age!The Pinch Runner Memorandum and the essay collection Hiroshima Notes, on the impact on Japan’s national psyche of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War. He lives in Tokyo with his wife and his eldest son Hikari, who was born with severe brain damage; many of the narrators in Oe’s fiction have brain-damaged children, most notably in the semi-autobiographical novel A Personal Matter. He won the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. (https://serpentstail.com/the-silent-cry.html)

Cover photo: (http://pinktentacle.com/2011/04/namazu-e-earthquake-catfish-prints/)

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