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Somersault

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3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  211 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Kenzaburo Oe is internationally recognized as one of the world's finest writers, and his achievements have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Somersault, the first new novel he published since winning the Nobel, departs radically from the autobiographical fiction he was known for, in a magnificent story of the charisma of leaders, the danger of zealotry, and the myst ...more
Hardcover, 570 pages
Published March 5th 2003 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 1999)
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Andrew
I’m having a very hard time with this review and it should not be reviewed dryly. Who Oe is doesn’t matter, or where he’s from or where this lies beside his previous works, or who the autistic musician or self terrified surgeon with the suicidal mother is. This is not a book to review from historical context.

You can. Religion, Japan by train, effigies, beer and whiskey beside saki, the desperate shame of a man dying of cancer tearfully pulling himself up to the first and only penis he’ll ever ha
...more
Alise Scheeler
Man, it must suck to win the Nobel Prize. Because then you write a novel like this--which is by any other standard, pretty good--and people are like, "Eh..."
David
Oe's magisterial novel tells the story of the rebirth of an extremist millennial church whose leaders had apparently abandoned the movement ten years earlier in a successful attempt to thwart terrorist activity by some of the church's most radical members. Widely criticized when the English translation came out in 2003 for its flat characterization and stilted style, patient readers will nonetheless find this a richly suggestive fantasy on post-war Japanese history filled with compelling situati ...more
Lisa
I really liked A Personal Matter, but I couldn't read more than about 20 pages of this.
Brian
I liked this book, but it was super long. I think that the treatment of the subject of religion vs. spirituality was interesting, and the author did seem to paint a very vivid picture of the direction that religions can take (and how dangerous religious sects can be when so much of what is done in them is symbolic for different groups of people in different ways). The book did a good job of slowly involving the reader more and more into the back story of each character and filling out many of th ...more
Bear
Like some others, I found this one hard to tackle. While I would not say it is a bad book, it certainly did not wow me at any level. In dealing with new religions (in a Japanese context), it certainly has an interesting setting and the characters are well developed and engaging. The book would appeal for those interested primarily in the characters rather than the events that surround them, I think. It is not a book that I would read again, sad to say.
Andrew
One of the more frustrating books I've ever read. This is hardly a story of a cult, hardly a story of "the human spirit" nor of repentance. There's bits of those things in there, but nothing stuck out in this book of interest to me. Dialogue, which is almost the entire book, is non-realist, banal and constantly focused on describing past events, relationships, etc. with a detatched air. The characters are emotionally flattened, the "cult activities" described are (and I don't mean this figurativ ...more
Sean de la Rosa
This was a very different read. Oe tackles the issues of current day religion, philosophy and ethics with beauty and grace. His characters are unique and interesting to unravel. Although the piece is large and dense, it is a rewarding read. Somersault is my first encounter with a Japanese author. Oe won the nobel prize for literature in 1994.

A quote near the end I re-read a few times: "Is it really so bad that you can't hear God's voice? You don't need God's voice, do you? People should be free.
...more
Alison
Moves pretty quickly for what is a very slow build of a book. It has sort of a lulling, meditative pace and most of the action comes in short bursts around lengthy dialogues that are sometimes sermons and parables and sometimes just read like sermons and parables. My sense is that this book conveys a kind of equivocal philosophical state that I am too unfocused to truly appreciate. Some fine dialogue and shades of Murakami in the weirder moments if you're into that sort of thing.
Cliff
Oe, in his breadth of ideas, and in the way he develops character, is in league with the likes of Dostoevsky and Thomas Mann. His clear, mature intelligence is suitable for this story of how people frame their lives in relation to each other, to notions of love and memory, and to a disquiet pursuit of something more.
Daniel Fulmer
THIS IS PROBABLY THE STRANGEST BOOK AROUND BUT TOTALLY CAPTIVATING IN THE WAY IT DELVES INTO THE MYSTERIES OF INNER LIFE AND SPIRIT...VERY DIFFICULT TO SLOG THROUGH,HOWEVER, BECAUSE OF LONG PASSAGES THAT OTHERS FIND REDUDANT THO I HAVE NOT MINDED THEM AT ALL
Nora
Aug 09, 2008 Nora marked it as never-finished-reading-it  ·  review of another edition
Reluctantly moving this to the never-finished shelf. Enjoying it, but a combination of its occasional tediousness and my overwhelming reading list for the upcoming school year make it necessary.
Drew
750 pages, 650 of which spiralled through gruelling permutations and combinations.
Interesting themes though, perhaps lost in translation.
Samuel Doyon
Extremely slow read, but worthwhile if you're at all interested in the Aum Shinrikyo incident or new religion movements in Japan.
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
I feel like I need to marks this as "To Read When I'm Feeling Incredibly Literary and Patient" - which is very rarely.
Parker
Jun 14, 2007 Parker is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Kenzarburo Oe, a Pulitzer prize winning author, has a knack for terse, precise language.
Martin
That patience is a virtue - and on long trips even big novels can get boring....
Calluna
I also want to pick this one up again. This book is enthralling. Kenzaburo Oe is awesome.
Eve
Nov 30, 2007 Eve marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
pas fini
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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
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“He grasped at a prescient feeling, akin to the dialectic of dreams, that this reunion could never come to pass, yet somehow--it most definitely would.” 1 likes
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