The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: Kenzaburo Oé’s Japanese novel ‘A Silent Cry’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Sep• 02•13

OeSilentCryPulitzer Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oé’s novel A Silent Cry (1994) is a psychological thriller relating to the familial travails surrounding two brothers. As in much of the author’s writing, there are no heroes here, as all protagonists are enveloped by a deep-seated malaise that continues to descend as the book progresses. Oé is a master of describing troubled souls unable to escape their misfortunes. They continue to make bad decisions, seemingly on paths to destruction. For the reader, this is fascinating, an exercise in anticipatory terror as the main characters are prone to suicide, rape, violence and demagoguery.

Most of the action takes place in a remote forest village where younger brother Takashi has developed a cult, encompassing idealistic youths and traditional village people. Their target becomes the local supermarket, owned by a Korean expat. Encouraged by xenophobia, they loot he market, successfully, as the village does not have a police presence. Older brother Mitsu makes vain attempts to bring a degree of conscience into the picture, reminding his younger brother that the local Koreans didn’t come to Japan of their own volition, as they were conscripted as slave labor by Japanese forces in World War II. No matter, Mitsu mainly keeps to his own council, voluntarily lives in an underground cellar, and no longer has the respect of his wife, who’s become Takashi’s lover. Eventually, the whole thing unravels as Takashi takes an action that shocks and distresses his followers.

Japan-290x200For us here at WoWasis, we found that ultimately, the book is a treatise on the perils of shudan ishiki, or group consciousness, where adherence to group harmony is more valued than individual initiative or morality. This theme has been a popular one among post-war Japanese writers and filmmakers, epitomized to a shocking extent in director Shūji Kataoka’s Subway Serial Rape series of films. This book is Oé at his best, a compelling read with increasing momentum to its final page. Buy A Silent Cry now at the WoWasis eStore.  

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