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The White Road by Edmund De Waal
"The White Road" by Edmund De Waal
Part memoir, part history, part detective story, The White Road chronicles a global obsession with alchemy, art, wealth, craft, and purity. Learn more | See more from the author

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Editorial Reviews Review

In The Music of Light, Lindsley Cameron chronicles the Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe's remarkable relationship with his son Hikari. Although Hikari was born with a severe brain deformity that resulted in retardation, autism, near-blindness, and poor coordination, he has become an accomplished composer of classical music. Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, has written much about Hikari and the rest of his family over the years. Cameron studies the intersections between Oe's life and work in this volume. She also discusses the nature of creativity, the scientific theories about brain injuries, and the history of musical savants.

Oe's close relationship with his son is unusual, especially in Japanese society, where men do not usually get very involved with raising their children. While helping Hikari deal with his health problems, the Oe family struggled to cope with their culture's severe discrimination against disabled people. Cameron describes Hikari's musical development and his amazing ability to memorize songs. Hikari's life story is an inherently fascinating one--a man who cannot express himself very well verbally somehow figured out how to do something most people cannot do: make up songs. Cameron interviewed both men and other family members for this book, and has done a good job of capturing their personalities on paper. Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe influence each other's work tremendously, and the elder Oe's writing and fame have had an enormous impact on the family's life. Fans of Kenzaburo Oe and people who are interested in the roots of creativity will find a lot to like in this book. --Jill Marquis

From Publishers Weekly

Born in 1963 with a severe brain hernia, composer Hikari Oe?son of Nobel Prize-winning Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe?was saved from death by an operation that left him brain-damaged and autistic. Today, Hikari, with an IQ measured at 65, limited speech faculties, a mental age of 12 and prone to epileptic seizures, nevertheless composes musical pieces that are mature and steeped in the Western classical idiom, and which have won him a worldwide following among CD collectors. A remarkable testament to the human spirit, Hikari's creative unfolding, as Cameron makes clear in this delicately written report, was made possible largely by Kenzaburo's all-consuming devotion, combined with constant, imaginative care from the child's mother. Freelancer Cameron sensitively uses Japanese culture to mirror American ambivalence toward the handicapped, and she documents the extraordinary degree to which Kenzaburo's involvement with his son has shaped the themes and direction of his own life and his fiction. Her inspirational account also draws on brain and cognitive research to help explain savants' singular gifts.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (June 12, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,964,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By enelsonnorgaard on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book I've read this year. It covers so much: a family's love for their brain damaged child and their commitment to the grueling, challenging years raising him in a society that wants him to just disappear. It is at once literary criticism, classical music criticism, cultural commentary, biography, pschology, psychiatry, medicine and a touchingly told love story between man and son. By the end of this book you will have fallen in love with Hikari the sweet savant from Kobe and his wonderful father, Kenzaburo.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joan on June 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I think the 5 stars are more for Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe than the author. Not that the books isn't well written, it is or I would feel so compelled to give Hikari and Kenzburo the 5 stars. The discussion of Kenzaburo's literary works gets a bit long for my taste, but they are critical to understanding the story of this family, the difficult decision of whether to try to save a child that will never grow up to be "normal", whether to defy the customs of the day that keep the handicapped hidden and treated as shameful, the burden that the decision becomes to the family, and the child who becomes an astonishing popular composer of classical music despite his mental and physical handicaps.

Having read the book I want to hear Hikari's music and read Kenzaburo's novels. But mostly I wish I could give them a hug for defying conventions and showing the world, for giving hope to all who struggle with handicaps that they too can be wonderful.
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By E. West on September 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading about Kenzaburo's defiance and courage, in choosing life over death for his son, and I enjoyed his artistic integrity. I enjoyed the way the author took us away from our division of people into "normal" and "different" to describe a wider spectrum of life, where the handicapped enlarge our humanity and where every person is recognized for his/her own humanity.
She also brought up the issues of the father/son relationship in which Kenzaburo freely admitted he lived through his son, as well as attempting to give him a voice through his fiction. As parents we do all live through our children, - in fact, as a mother, the thing I am proudest of all about is my children and their achievements, so this is understandable. I felt just a twinge disconcerted about the issue of the well-known and well-connected Kenzaburo turning Hikari into a celebrity. I also wondered what happened to all Hikari's earnings. If some of it were channelled back into helping handicapped people find a voice that would be great.
For anyone facing trials, especially those in which the unknown factors, fighting illness, unemployment, handicapped children whose prognosis is uncertain, this is such an encouraging book. Particularly memorable is the fact that Kenzaburo chooses light, not the darkness of the crow. Similarly, we all need the courage to carve light out of darkness.
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