He was the third son of seven children. I would cut open my belly and die. This sense of betrayal later appeared in his writing. He married in February

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Shelves: nobel-laureates , cherished , melancholia , human-drama , asian-literature , and-more , novellas-short-novels-short-stories , nihon-ga-suki , adoration , existentialism-absurdism Reading A Personal Matter is nothing less than an agonizing experience. It almost feels like somebody poking at and opening up our most secret, suppurating, psychological wounds and making them bleed all over again, thereby compelling us to wake up to the realization of their existence.

These scars and bruises make their presence known time and again by causing us pain of the highest order. And so we proceed to wrap them up in the protective wadding of false pretensions, carefully hiding them Reading A Personal Matter is nothing less than an agonizing experience. And so we proceed to wrap them up in the protective wadding of false pretensions, carefully hiding them away from the scrutiny of the rest of the world and more importantly, ourselves.

He also forces us to acknowledge its perpetuity, accept it and achieve a state of harmony with it. With every turn of a page, we find ourselves plunging deeper into the bottomless pit of shame, self-loathing and sheer grief along with Bird, our protagonist. Bird nickname , a young man of twenty seven, keeps drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the length of the narrative.

While walking along a busy Tokyo street he is capable of sparing a thought for his pregnant wife experiencing labour pains at the hospital and alternately seeking escapism in the form of dreaming about landscapes of Africa, a continent he desperately wishes to visit some day. He neither seems to feel passionately about his wife nor about the job at the cram school he has landed thanks to the benevolence of his father-in-law.

In a sense, he is apathetic to his own life but we are shown that he is not immune from feelings of embarrassment. Weak-willed and jittery, he refuses to accept the birth of a child with a grotesque lump on its head and crucial genetic deformities. Although immediately afterwards, he suffers from a keen self-hatred. Yet at the same time he shudders in revulsion at the thought of having to kill a helpless, sick little child with his bare hands.

He fears being in the presence of his wife and mother-in-law both of whom seem to blame him for everything, and seeks solace in violent sex with an old lover.

Thus, Bird, seems to possess no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. He is a failure at life and everything he does. He is selfish to the point of entertaining ideas of running away with his lover to Africa, abandoning all his responsibilities. He only views his biological child as a callously assembled, defective mass of flesh, blood and bone. He refuses to give him a name or even acknowledge his gender and burden himself with the task of acquainting himself with his newborn son.

Bird is despicable in the true sense of the term. But then at the same time, Bird is also the very personification of all our worst human weaknesses. He disgusts the reader but he also evokes feelings of sympathy and solidarity.

It seems this indisputable fact had eluded him so far. As he comes full circle, traversing the seemingly infinite distance between madness and sanity, so does the reader. And when he finally finds hope in a hopeless place and sets into motion the long, convoluted process of acceptance, it is not the predictability of this ending which strikes us. The baby continued to live, and it was oppressing Bird, even beginning to attack him. Swaddled in skin as red as shrimp which gleamed with the luster of scar tissue, the baby was beginning ferociously to live, dragging its anchor of a heavy lump.

In slow succession, the reader becomes- Bird, the indifferent cram school teacher. Bird, the day-dreamer. Bird, the miserable failure of a man. Bird, the conspiring murderer. Bird, the unfaithful husband. And at the very end, Bird, the accepting father. Thus, A Personal Matter, ceases to be just about a personal matter somewhere. Instead, it becomes one of the most life-affirming stories ever, meant to serve as a panacea for the ones suffering from the affliction of an undignified existence.

So he gifts us with the strength to endure it instead.


A Personal Matter

Written in , the novel is semi-autobiographical and dark in tone. It tells the story of Bird, a man who must come to terms with the birth of his mentally disabled son. Plot[ edit ] The plot follows the story of Bird, a 27 year old Japanese man. The book starts with him wondering about a hypothetical trip to Africa, which is a recurrent theme in his mind throughout the story. Soon after day-dreaming about his trip and a brawl with a few local delinquents from the region, Bird receives a call from the doctor of the hospital regarding his newborn child, urging him to talk in person. After meeting with the doctor, he discovers that his son has been born with a brain hernia , although the fact is still obscure to his wife. Bird is troubled by the revelation, and regrets having to inform the relatives of his wife about the facts concerning the state of the child, who is not expected to survive for long.


Kenzaburō Ōe




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