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Quiet Life
     

Quiet Life

by Kenzaburo Oe
 

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A Quiet Life is an uncanny blend of the real with the imagined, of memoir with fiction. A Quiet Life is narrated by Ma-chan, a twenty-year-old woman. Her father is a famous and fascinating novelist; her older brother, though severely brain damaged, possesses an almost magical gift for musical composition; and her mother's life is devoted to the care of them both.

Overview


A Quiet Life is an uncanny blend of the real with the imagined, of memoir with fiction. A Quiet Life is narrated by Ma-chan, a twenty-year-old woman. Her father is a famous and fascinating novelist; her older brother, though severely brain damaged, possesses an almost magical gift for musical composition; and her mother's life is devoted to the care of them both. Ma-chan and her younger brother find themselves emotionally on the outside of this oddly constructed nuclear family. But when her father accepts a visiting professorship from an American university, Ma-chan finds herself suddenly the head of the household and at the center of family relationships that she must begin to redefine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like Oe, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, K-Chan, the character at the heart of this novel, is an internationally renowned Japanese novelist. His story pits the quest for individual identity against the measure of selflessness necessary for healthy family life. Wisecracking and often emotionally insensitive, K-Chan suffers a spiritual breakdown that impels him to leave his young adult children in Japan while he and his wife take up residence at a college in California-and where, in peace, he might answer the daunting question: "how is a faithless person to cope with life?" Thus, it is up to his 20-year-old daughter, the narrator Ma-Chan, who describes herself as a "withdrawn coward," to care for her older, mentally handicapped but musically brilliant brother, nicknamed Eeyore, and her younger, independent and intelligent brother, O-Chan. The narrative traces the quotidian challenges Ma-Chan faces, shuttling Eeyore to and from work at a vocational welfare center and attending to his epileptic seizures. Meanwhile, supporting characters, all friends or family of K-Chan, wonder aloud to Ma-Chan about her father's abandonment of his children, and discuss with her episodes from his past that might have led to his nervous breakdown. Unfortunately, Oe employs stilted dialogue (made worse, no doubt, by a lifeless translation) between characters on topics that include Tarkovsky's film Stalker and a novel by Aitmatov about the Crucifixion. These discussions are clumsy and lack the grace and whimsy apparent in other novels of ideas by writers like Milan Kundera (whom a character named Mr. Shigeto is said to translate). A dramatic climax in which Ma-Chan is nearly raped by Eeyore's swimming teacher lacks credibility. Eventually, the family-minus K-Chan-is reunited in a conclusion that, like the novel, makes more of a dry conceptual impact than an emotional one. (Oct.)
The New York Times
This Nobel laureate's autobiographical novel focuses on the family a very famous Japanese author has left behind...[His] daughter...becomes the caretaker of her brother, a brain-damaged young man who is, like Oe's son, extraordinarily gifted in music...John David Morley wrote, "Through the special case of this mentally retarded individual, the ordinary lives of those who interact with him are movingly illuminated." -- The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802135469
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
12/28/1997
Series:
Oe, Kenzaburo Series
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
376,441
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Lexile:
1200L (what's this?)

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