Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $4.74 shipping
A Personal Matter Paperback – January 13, 1994
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
"A Personal Matter" is easily Oe's most popular novel, outselling all others by a huge margin both in Japan and outside. That's easy to explain. It's his easiest, most traditional narrative, strictly chronological, told by an 'omniscient' narrator whose omniscience is obviously a mask for the author's projection of his own consciousness into his character named Bird. There is none of Oe's usual deliberate disorder and allusive/elusive obscurity. Plenty of 'shocking' scenes occur, but for Kenzaburo Oe this novel is almost chaste in its depictions of perversity and violence. If the reader is at all acquainted with Oe's other books, or with Oe's true 'personal matter' behind Bird's crisis, it's not hard to intuit that the author wanted and needed a simple structure, distanced from himself, to work out the anguish of his imagination.
Oe's personal matter was the birth of his first child, a son, with severe brain damage. That was in 1963. In 1964, Oe wrote two 'accounts' of his experience, this novel "A Personal Matter" and the short story "Aghwee the Sky Monster". Prior to 1963, most of Oe's writings had focused on the catastrophes of recent Japanese history: the war, the collapse of the Japanese identity along with the de-deification of the Emperor, and the bombing of Hiroshima. Since 1963, Oe's most powerful writing has traced the evolution of his fatherhood, of his intense bonding with his unique son. Oe the man has been a difficult, eruptive, unmanageable person, whose identity-pains inflate to fill any space he enters. From so much pain, so much humanity!
Oe would have been a great writer even if his son had been born in mediocre normalcy. Once in a while, I persuade myself that I can write, if not popularly at least honestly, but Oe's 'honesty' to his own craft as a writer and to his own humanity leaves me gasping in awe. This is the same honesty that I admire in the writings of WG Sebald. Neither Oe nor Sebald is bound to literal veracity, fact for fact, in their obviously autobiographical fictions. Both of them shape their lives imaginatively in their story-telling. But Oe's imagination comes closer to Reality than anyone else's 'swear-on-a-bible' truth. Think of the greatest autobiographers of the past -- Augustine, Rousseau, De Quincey, Lowell -- and get ready for an Oe who spills his guts more courageously than any of them.
I loved the sex scenes, again disturbing, but they felt very raw and honest and it is so refreshing to read literary men who are not afraid to go there, and more than once! The next time someone says sex scenes can not be long and mean something I will point to this book.
Also, some of the ugliness felt familiar, so again the author was incredibly brave to have been able to look that far into human ugliness (possibly his own) to come up with this story.
The language was strange at times, though this is not surprising since this is a translation. A friend of mine read it in Japanese and said even there the vocabulary and diction read like an academic. One or two places I felt like the text was confusing for no good reason, or possibly even due to an error either by the author or the translator. This was slight, but again, a reason I couldn't give this five stars though I think this is an important book and despite how hard it was to read, it moved along at a good clip.
Most recent customer reviews
It's a really quick read, also.