Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels
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Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  912 ratings  ·  65 reviews
These four novels display Oe’s passionate and original vision. Oe was ten when American jeeps first drove into the mountain village where he lived, and his literary work reveals the tension and ambiguity forged by the collapse of values of his childhood on the one hand and the confrontation with American writers on the other. The earliest of his novels included here, Prize...more
Paperback, 261 pages
Published October 13th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1966)
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Nov 07, 2012 B0nnie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to B0nnie by: David
(This review is for Prize Stock (Shiiku, 飼育), one of the novellas in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels).

Paul Theroux wrote that "the revolting Japanese author Kenzaburō Ōe says [Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] is his favorite book".
Paul Theroux v. Kenzaburō Ōe

How reliable this statement is I don't know, but the story of Prize Stock could be seen as sort of a dark, messed up retelling of Huckleberry. Trade the idyllic Mississippi River shore for Japan during WWII, make the character Jim a captured pil...more
mark monday
here are some words and phrases regarding this collection of thematically-linked novellas by left-leaning post-war Japanese author Oe Kenzaburo:

- surreal, dream-like

- grotesque, morbid

- humanistic, humane

- unsentimental, clear-eyed

- a modernist style of writing with a postmodern view of the world? or maybe not.

- unreal, a hair-raising and uncomfortable kind of unreal

- a genuine realism that kind of hurts to read

- upsetting, angry

- ambiguous, fleeting

- moving, incredibly moving at times. particul...more
The more I think about it, the more these four short novels seem to be about the violence that fathers do to their sons--and so the sons to their sons. Violence by indifference, by hatchet, by symbiosis and sugar water. And how this is one generation's betrayal of another, repeated over and over and over again.

I'm struck by how the use of italics can turn an everyday word or phrase into a magic word or phrase (a certain party, the catch), and how it therefore becomes an incantation, something wh...more
It was simply my relief I could finish reading these four short novels by Kenzaburo Oe; they have been ranked based on my personal view regarding readability in the following order:

1. Prize Stock [I finished reading this novel on July 1, 2011.]
2. Aghwee The Sky Monster
3. Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness
4. The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away

Consequently each novel would be explored why it has been appreciated as such from my familiarity with his works I have read so far, not all of course....more
What a way to finish up my tour of the great Japanese writers of the 20th century. It’s not often you can call a writer brave. Generally it’s reserved for writers who risked their own lives for their art. Alexander Solzhenitsyn would be a good example. But as I read the tales in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, I could only stand in awe at how brave Kenzaburō Ōe was as a storyteller.

Take the opening tale, “The Day He Himself Shall Wipe Away My Tears.” It is told entirely from the prospective of...more
Oct 26, 2008 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Josh
Incredible. Astonished. This is one of those books that puts tiny fingers in between the breaches in what one thought was a continuous idea of the possible in a book, and breaks it apart, leaving and making use of these fascinating new spaces. It is embarassing but I felt as if this book were a hose pumping a fuel hungry to be used, designed only for me, into my brain. It gets better and better.
My organs are too destroyed to write any meaningful analysis, so: FUCKING BRILLIANT.
I think I'm done with this book. One of these stories strangled me in my sleep, one of them sort of angrily shouted at me until I had learned my lesson, and one of them made me feel absolutely terrible up until the very end, whereupon, once more, I felt absolutely nothing. I don't want to know what's behind door number 4 for right now. I'm satisfied -- if you can call it that. But, mind you, all of these things I relate as stress on my body were actually... in a weird way... enjoyable? Is that t...more
Prize stock:
In real life, I visited Kenzaburo's hometown and I tripped around like I tripped around Wordsworth's Lake District cottage, delighting at the old stuff and the nature. I even thought it was hilarious to sing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcmcXr....

From this story, it turns out that the pretty mountain village, with its Edo period street and kabuki theatre, was actually a nightmare wasteland. Post-apocalyptic to the max (whilst remaining vague about the nature of the apocalypse, or...more
Abeer alkhalil
"كنزابورو أوي "
ما خلقته بي هو الاختلاف.. و الهذيان عالي القيمة!
أربع محاولات لخلق عالم مختلف
تبدأ بالجنون العاطفي لكافة أشكال التلاحم الروحي بين أب و ابنه..
ستتوقف بلحظات هامساً لنفسك أيعقل ؟!
لن أتحدث عن القصص لأن دهشة اكتشافها و استبصار عميق هذا الكاتب تستحق الدهشة الأولى!
مع التنبه لنوعية سرده الداخلي هذا الفن الصعب الذي لا يرحل بسهولة متى ما تمكن منك..

لا تدعوا القصة الثانية تعيق تقدمكم معه هي صعبة جداً و سترهقكم و لكن بديعة ♥
Ismael Galvan
I initially put this book aside because I knew it was going to be heavy. The preparation did little to prepare me for the brutality contained in this book.

The opening novel, The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away, is bizarre enough to immediately turn away most readers. The first line reads:

"Deep one night he was trimming his nose that would never walk again into the sunlight atop living legs, busily feeling every hair with a Rotex rotary nostril clipper as if to make his nostrils as bare a...more
Ebtihal Abuali
الكتاب عبارة عن أربع روايات قصيرة (أو يمكن قصص طويلة!)

علمنا أن نتجاوز جنوننا: تتحدث عن ارتباط فوق معتاد بين اب وابنه، الابن مصاب بعته منذ الولادة يمنعه من الكلام والتعبير عن نفسه والأب يعتقد انه حين يلمس اصبع ابنه فإن مشاعر ابنه تنتقل إليه وتنطلق من خلاله. هذه الرواية جاءت بعد ولادة الطفل الأول لكينزابورو، بورم في الدماغ.

الرواية الثانية في الكتاب (يوم يكفكف دمعي بنفسه) كانت فخاً، وحين انتصفت فيها مع شعوري بالضياع وصعوبة المواصلة عدت لقراءة مراجعات من سبقوني فوجدتهم ينصحون بإرجاء هذه الرواية للنه...more
Michael Walkden
This is quite something. These stories really draw you in, if you approach them with an open mind. 'The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away' is confusing, but once you've mastered the perspective shifts and un-flagged dialogue, it's a fascinating read. Personally, I did find these techniques detrimental to the reading experience, and was relieved that 'Prize Stock' (my favourite of this collection) used the more conventional paragraph breaks and speech marks. It's definitely the most accessi...more
I read three of the four novellas in this book, and they were breathtaking. The one remaining section is said in the introduction to be "Oe's most difficult and disturbing work to date." So I'm holding off until I have the time and energy to devote to it, and in the meantime, a student who read Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids wanted to read more by this author. (Always a good sign.)

One novella hits starkly upon the irony of rural villagers treating a downed black American pilot like a piece of live...more
This is one of those books that should be on all those cannon lists of major modern Eastern writers--well, it probably is and it finally popped up on my radar. The first one was rather tough going, but in the end rewarded the reader for sticking to the journey. The second is a classic short story but original for its subjects and perspectives. The third is an even deeper tribute to narcissism than the first--but also blessedly recognizes and somewhat reverses that mindset. The fourth brought bac...more
I read two of the novels, Prize Stock and Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness. I mean to go back and read the other two at some point, because the two were wonderful (though Prize Stock is... troubling in many ways). They're very strange, surreal kinds of books, but really warm and lovable at the same time. Good stuff.

Edit: Just finished Aghwee the Sky Monster. Overall, I have to say, I've never encountered writing where I feel so drawn in and alienated at the same time. There's something familiar a...more
I've not yet read the 1st novella in this book. I may revisit it later. The 4/5 star rating is for the rest of this collection:

"Prize Stock": my favorite; a strange and powerful tale that really resonated with me. 5/5

"Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness": strange is just the beginning here. But there is tenderness here too. The ending wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped, but the writing is solid. 3.5/5

"Aghwee the Sky Monster": really good story. 3.5/5
“My life has a splendid continuity, don’t you agree, especially in the details?”

For maximum psychological effect, read the stories in this order:

Aghwee, The Sky Monster
Prize Stock
Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness
The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away

The final story on this list exhibits an autobiographical bravery that verges on the perverse. Something like laying out organs on a table: brain, heart, liver, spleen.
This book is full of blood and sweat. It's a tough book, not necessarily because his narratives are complicated (although they are), but because it's constantly challenging you, particularly me as a Westerner who has to use my imagination to reflect on some things that are not part of my cultural milieu. This book is a beautiful, fantastic, and unique experience not for the faint of heart.
Alejandro Ortiz
Me llamó la atención el libro por cierta equivocación que no tiene sentido reproducir aquí. Los accidentes providenciales también nos descubren cosas buenas. La gracia con que Oe trabaja estas tres novelas cortas es magistral. El trabajo de los personajes y los resultados plásticos son dignos de Dostoievski. Una fuerza para describir la locura de cada uno de ellos, que, al fin, es el motivo que hila las tres historias: Locura, familia y la historia del Japón.

Un libro que merece mucho la pena lee...more
"El pasado es una mímica inabordable: de convenciones rituales, de sufrimientos autoinfligidos, de actos desesperados que se sumergen en los silencios extrahumanos de la locura, del harakiri. El futuro, desde el que vemos una promesa incumplida: en el hijo deficiente o condenado, en el cáncer que se extiende inexorable, en la imposibilidad metafísica de producir un cambio y situarse en ese otro lugar que no es ahora."

Son las palabras con las que arranca el prólogo de esta entrañable obra. Y sí,...more
Four short novels that have many elements in common: the past and how it invades and affects current lives, damaged children and the as-a-result damaged parents, and the existential struggle of a character who is attempting to understand his place in the world. Prize Stock with its story of relationship between the African American airman and the Japanese villages who capture him after his plane crashes during the war and Aghwee The Sky Monster in which a hired companion for a once famous concer...more
Sep 06, 2009 Ariel marked it as to-read
I climbed precariously on a chair to pluck this from the highest shelf. There's no way I could've read the spine from the ground. What was I looking for to start with? Celine? Instead, this title, which sounded at first like a self-help book worth skimming for a laugh.

And, instead, the back: "Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness" tells of the close relationship between an outlandishly fat father and his mentally defective son, Eeyore. "Aghwee the Sky Monster" is about a young man's first job-- chaper...more
Kyle Muntz
It's not hard to understand why Oe won the Nobel Prize. I only read about half of this collection, but the stories I read were piercing, subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) grotesque, raw, pained, beautifully strange while still being subdued. I would have read the other two stories, but from what I've read, I think he might have touched on some of the same themes better in his larger novels, and with a writer like Oe I found myself wanting to go right to the source. The title story was fantasti...more
Jared Tan
Rather audacious to rate an unfinished book, but after reading 3 of 4 of its stories, I just gave up.
Instead of wasting time, powering thru it, it is better to end it, and read something more to my liking.

Overly descriptive, such that it is meaningless.
After spending hours reading it, to sum up everything it is.. "What did I just read?" and "Meaningless uphill endurance battle".
Jake Losh
Sadly I had to abort reading this book 20 pages into it. Oe is basically a wackier, more absurdist predecessor to Haruki Murakami, an author I've read pretty extensively. He's kind of hard to read and not very accessible, what with the shifting narration and what-not. I've been about 20 pages into it all summer and I think I'm going to have to pull the plug on it. I think I read too much Murakami before reading Oe, so it feels like I've already read this book (I really get the sense Murakami was...more
A narration by a 35-year-old man who is lying in a hospital, looking forward to his death, of liver cancer, thinking about his earlier days, his mother and father, in a village, singing the song; “Happy days are here again", etc. Reading Susan Napier’s introduction to the novel, saying the narrator desire to escape from his adult responsibilities back into childhood… hiding "unpleasant memories... or archetypes such as the identification of the father with the emperor (Japan) …and references to...more
Sep 29, 2012 S.B. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: nippon
By the time he had begun directing his brain to active thoughts about a 'certain party' himself, a 'certain party' no longer existed, an emptiness with the volume of an obese adult had opened in this world, and he had discovered with his entire small, thin body that this emptiness was packed with nothing more than August heat and light. Once this void began searching for a meaning, it proved to be a vacuum powerful enough to pull in all of his thirty-five years of life that protruded from his 'H...more
Mar 12, 2013 Ángel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ángel by: Edmee Pardo
Tres relatos homogéneos; la misma historia contada de manera diversa. Gente desequilibrados o que viven la locura de unos acontecimientos traumáticos. En el primer caso, en el que da título a la recopilación, es el nacimiento de un hijo deficiente, influenciado además por su padre, que también eligió la locura como salida. En la tercera historia, El día que Él se digne a enjugar mis lágrimas, es también la influencia del padre, aunque en este caso se añade su muerte al final de la Segunda Guerra...more
آلاء  بن سلمان
ربما الترجمة لا ترتقي لمستوى الرواية بلغتها الأم أو أنها فعلاً لم ترقني .
Lloyd Fassett
May 05, 2014 Lloyd Fassett marked it as to-read
5/3/14 - Tripp Sickler recommended him to me.
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Kenzaburō Ōe (大江 健三郎), is a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His works, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, engage with political, social and philosophical issues including nuclear weapons, social non-conformism and existentialism.

Ōe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994 for creating "an imagined world, where life and myth condens...more
More about Kenzaburō Ōe...
A Personal Matter Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids The Silent Cry A Quiet Life The Changeling

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'He's black, you see that! I thought he would be all along.' Harelip's voice trembled with excitement. 'He's a real black man, you see!'
'What are they going to do with him, shoot him?'
'Shoot him!' Harelip shouted, gasping with surprise. 'Shoot a real live black man!'
Because he's the enemy,' I asserted without confidence. 'Enemy! You call him an enemy!' Harelip seized my shirt and railed at me hoarsely, spraying my face with saliva through his lip.
'He's a black man, he's no enemy!”
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