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Silence Once Begun: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Kindle Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Length: 257 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
"A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover novel and casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties. Learn more

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The enigmatic silence of a wrongfully accused suspect is at the core of the new novel from Ball (The Curfew). In 1977 Japan, Oda Sotatsu is a mild-mannered thread salesman who falls in with a couple of wild characters—the charismatic Sato Kakuzo and the beautiful Jito Joo. After losing a wager to Kakuzo, Oda signs a document claiming responsibility for a series of mysterious disappearances that have baffled authorities in the region. Later, while on trial and in prison, rather than profess his innocence or defend himself, Oda stops speaking. Years later, a journalist, also named Jesse Ball, becomes fascinated with the case and attempts to track down and interview Oda's family and friends. Most of the novel is written as transcripts of these interviews, which layer together, Rashomon-like, to form an increasingly mysterious and conflicted portrait of Oda and his alleged crime. This methodical presentation makes for coolly suspenseful reading, but it's soon clear there is more underlying Ball's investigation than meets the eye. For example, when he tracks down Joo, the normally dispassionate interviewer is overcome with emotion and makes a lengthy and unexpected personal confession. Even so, the truth remains elusive until the final pages. The novel is intriguing and offers a riveting portrait of the Japanese criminal justice system (a guard's description of the execution procedure is particularly chilling); but how readers react to it will largely depend on whether they feel some of the final twists deepen or cheapen the material. (Jan.)

From Booklist

Ball is alarmed, entranced, haunted, and enlightened by silence. A key element in his previous novel, The Curfew (2011), it plays a more harrowing role in this meditative investigation into a tragedy of injustice. After his beloved wife suddenly turns silent, a writer named Jesse Ball becomes obsessed with a 1977 criminal case in Japan involving the disappearance of 11 villagers. A confession signed by Oda Sotatsu, a quiet, dutifully employed 29-year-old man, was delivered to the police station. Sotatsu was arrested and incarcerated and soon stopped speaking. He remained silent during his trial and was promptly executed. Three decades later, Ball travels to Japan to interview Sotatsu’s family and find the mystery woman who often visited the doomed man. Ball’s spare, meditative, Rashomon-like novel, a work of exceptional control and exquisite nuance, consists of contradictory transcripts, poetic letters, a striking fable, and melancholy musings. Enigmatic black-and-white photographs add to the subtly cinematic mode. With echoes of Franz Kafka, Paul Auster, and Kobo Abe, Ball creates an elegantly chilling and provocatively metaphysical tale. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 4803 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 28, 2014)
  • Publication Date: January 28, 2014
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,592 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can honestly say I have never quite read anything like Silence Once Begun. It’s disturbing, lyrical, original, provocative, and experimental in the best of ways. Yet it stands on the shoulders of giants that came before it: Sartre comes to mind, as does Camus.

The premise is instantly (pardon the pun) arresting. A thread salesman named Oda Sotatsu signs a confession for a crime that has baffled the Japanese authorities – eight older individuals disappear without a trace in what becomes known as the Narito Disappearances. Yet once jailed, he utters barely a word….even though we, the readers, know he is not guilty from the first pages.

A man who refers to himself as the Interviewer – named Jesse Ball – meets with Sotatsu’s parents, brother and sister, jailers, and a woman perceived as a love interest. Written in the conceit of notes drawn from interviews via tape-device, the story takes on an immediacy and fascination – particularly as we realize that the character Jesse Ball is in search of existential answers in his own life.

“One can’t say how one behaved or why, really. Such situations, they are far more complex than any either/or proposition. It is simplistic to produce events in pairs and lean them against each other like cards.” And so it is here. Each person whom Jesse Ball encounters provides a credible part of the puzzle, yet each urges him not to trust anyone else. From one character: “You have to be very careful whom you trust. Everyone has a version, and most of them are wrong.” Who is telling the truth and who is lying – and in the grand scheme of things, does it even matter? As Sotatsu’s brother says about their father: “He said I had a liar’s respect for the truth, which is too much respect.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This may be the strangest novel I have ever read, fascinating, inventive, but almost impossible to review. Visually, it is an airy book, with lots of white space and much of the text over at the right of the page like a film script, but it seems awfully weighty when you are done. There are numerous photographs, of houses, fields, even a roller coaster, but they are all of deliberately poor quality and of no apparent relevance, so they obscure the story rather than illuminating it. Although written in English by an American author, the language is curiously stilted and mechanical, as though it were an awkward translation from some foreign tongue. But the odder it got, the more intriguing it became.

OK, is there a story? Yes, but a strange one. In the late seventies, an undistinguished Japanese worker named Oda Sotatsu, losing a barroom bet with two friends, signs his name to a document which they then deliver to the police. It turns out to be a confession to the disappearance of eleven old people in the Narito region, and Sotatsu is arrested. But as he refuses to speak during interrogation, at his trial, or to appeal his sentence, he is condemned to death and hanged. Three decades later, an American journalist named Jesse Ball (yes), whose marriage is breaking up owing to his wife's sudden refusal to speak, becomes interested in the case of Sotatsu's silence and goes to Japan to interview the surviving witnesses.

What follows, organized with nerdish care, is a series of interviews, tape transcripts, newspaper reports, personal observations, and supporting documents.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jesse Ball (born June 7, 1978) is an American poet and novelist. He has published novels, volumes of poetry, short prose, and drawings. His works are distinguished by the use of a spare style. Previous novels include “The Curfew”, “The Way Through Doors” and “Samedi the Deafness”.

“Silence Once Begun” undoubtedly tells a strange tale. Like many young people even today, Sato Kakuzo was an idealist, who viewed the notion of “justice”, at least in the legal sense, as wholly inadequate because of its failure to secure the truth. In his quest to prove the point Kakuzo engages Oda Sotatsu in a game of chance which invariably Oda loses. As a consequence of his loss, Oda is sworn to silence about the contents of his signed false confession that Kakuzo put before him.

The tragedy is twofold: first Oda Sotatsu gives up his freedom and ultimately his life for no consequence; and secondly, Sato Kakuzo finds despair in that his plan, while successful, yielded no significant conclusion – it being wholly forgotten along with him and Sotatsu.

There is more to the writing than the summary that I have laid out. There is a considerable amount of philosophical expression devoted to each of the different participants in the story. Each plies his own layer of wisdom, sometimes faulty, and it assembles around the individualism of the participant’s life knowledge.

In conclusion, I found the novel to be only somewhat to my liking. It was strange in its construction and particularly confounding in its moral depth. The latter providing some incredulity as to the actions committed by the players – but of course, this is after all, the heart of the work. If nothing more, the novel is short and can be read rather quickly so I am suggesting that you might like to add it to your reading list.
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