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The Changeling

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  580 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Oe introduces Kogito Choko, a writer in his early sixties, as he rekindles a childhood friendship with his estranged brother-in-law, the renowned filmmaker Goro Hanawa. Goro sends Kogito a trunk of tapes he has recorded of reflections about their friendship, but as Kogito is listening one night, he hears something odd. "I'm going to head over to the Other Side now," Goro s ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Grove Press (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,276)
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Nov 02, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-red-circle
"Hey, what's up, Doc? I think I'm going to dream tonite ..."

Do you remember Dr Jacoby in "Twin Peaks" listening to Laura's tapes in his weird Hawaiian room? Well, thanks to youtube, you don't have to:

That's fictional Kenzaburo Oe at the start of "The Changeling". Fortunately, despite the "Let's try and shift as much Oe as they do Haruki Murakami" inspired blurb, this book isn't about a ghost in a tape machine. "The Changeling" sits as a sort of sequel to "
Apr 10, 2011 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: philosophy students, fans of contemporary Japanese literature
Nobel prize-winner Oe Kenzaburo has written a memoir of the soul using the tools of fiction. THE CHANGELING thus falls, paradoxically, into both and neither category. It reveals the author as a relentlessly intense person looking back on his life and asking questions about life's meaning, death, the malleability of memory, and how our perceptions of history might govern the future.

The author reveals his thoughts not through an interior monlogue but through an ingenious literary device. His frie
Oct 03, 2010 Suzy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this seems like an accomplishment to me. Oe is a Nobel Prize-winning author, so I am glad to have read something by him. His writing is extremely intelligent and intellectual; you can't help but be impressed. It wasn't until the Epilogue that I can say I really enjoyed reading the book though. The epilogue was long--more like a few more chapters (and the end of it felt much more like The End than the end had). It interests me that it SEEMS like I liked the epilogue bc it was written from ...more
Stephen Durrant
As one of my previous reviews indicates, I admire the Japanese Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburo Oe. He demonstrates more than any Japanese writer I know the degree to which so many modern Japanese intellectuals have assimilated the larger cultural and literary world outside Japan. Arthur Rimbaud, Maurice Sendak, Wole Soyinka and other cultural icons are not just names he drops but figures who shape the content and meaning of "Changeling," Oe's most recent novel. His intellectual landscape is ...more
Krishna Avendaño
Aug 11, 2014 Krishna Avendaño rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lectores de Kenzaburo Oé
Renacimiento no es una novela para el gran público, es una novela para los lectores de Kenzaburo Oe. El autor, como sucede en muchos otros de sus libros, se vale de la autificción para hablar de otros temas —en este caso la creación artística y los peligros que hay detrás de ella—. No sabemos qué tanto es cierto o no. El libro que creímos que era una autobiografía fiel (Cartas a los años de la nostalgia, que también aparece aquí) resultó ser una novela. Oé quizá está jugando con nosotros y decid ...more
Roger Brunyate
Jun 12, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel-laureates
A Life in Fractals

Fractal designs, such as used to be popular twenty years ago, have the property that any part of them replicates the whole in miniature. If you zoom in on even the tiniest detail, you can reach an understanding of the entire shape. This analogy occurs to me after reading The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe, a late work by the Japanese Nobel Laureate, and so far the only thing by him that I have read. Where most novels have a linear narrative behind them, this one reads as a series o
Ernest Junius
Mar 19, 2011 Ernest Junius rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 60 and above
Recommended to Ernest by: Nobel Prize Organisation
To be frank, this is not an easy book. I did struggle when I read this. The scenario was loosely going back and forth, including a long solitary march of self-reminiscing of the past. It is very easy to get lost in time and space with that kind of literary narrative. Of course with Oe's skillful direction, I somehow managed to stay in course and keep on reading until the very end. But, to me, there were some problems...

The book starts strong and interesting: a friend of the aging main character
Aug 06, 2012 Bryanbannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first read of Oe and I was very impressed. I really liked the tone of the narration, the main characters are very well developed, and the plot (which is very uneventful if you are looking for a plot-driven read) was engaging almost immediately.

There are a lot of threads to follow in the narrative, and it bounces around in time. So if that bothers you, this might not be the book for you. I really enjoyed how the background to the central relationship is played out over the entirety o
Sep 16, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
Decided to branch out with Oe after rereading A Personal Matter. Picked this.

This is a long wandering road through memory and history, communicating with the dead. Does have a tendency to reference some Japanese political history, from the Meiji to MacArthur to Yukio Mishima, so a little background is required for the Westerner, at least. Very beautiful ending.

Sep 12, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oe, Kenzaburo. THE CHANGELING. (2010). ****. Oe won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, and is best known for his themes of abnormality and/or difference from the standard Japanese pursuit of business success and sexual uniformity. Although his books are not of mainstream Japanese fiction, they are still rooted heavily in tradition and honor. In this novel, he explores the relationship between two men who have been close friends since they were teenagers. They are now both at the peak of the ...more
Jun 14, 2013 Utsav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow, reflective, and often meandering but consistently beautiful read. A lot of the plot elements are apparently autobiographical, and Oe mixes fact with fiction to deliver a wistful tale of a man in his sixties looking back at his life in the wake of his best friend's suicide, replete with his musings on art, politics, individualism, and sexuality.

A highly intertextual book, Oe takes us through, among others and off the top of my head, the works of Arthur Rimbaud, Frida Kahlo, Mozart, and ev
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
il bambino e lo scrittore

Kogito è uno scrittore affermato e il suo migliore amico, Goro, un regista di fama mondiale, quando Goro si suicida, Kogito ne cerca i motivi nelle vecchie conversazioni registrate dal suo amico

Oe Kenzaburo ama raccontare molto della sua storia, in ogni suo libro c'è una parte che attinge al suo passato e questo non fa eccezione, il racconto vero e proprio è molto breve: c'è un bambino che ha avuto un'esperienza traumatica insieme al suo migliore amico, e questo ricordo
Mike McQuillian

Picked this up because: I read A Personal Matter and Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids years ago. I don't remember much, but I remember I liked them.

Synopsis: Elderly author Kogito has been receiving taped monologues from his lifelong friend Goro. When Goro commits suicide, Kogito becomes obsessed with having “conversations” with these taped monologues. As the book progresses, it seems that a shared traumatic experience between the two men may have sown the seeds for Goro's depression.

This book is co
Jul 01, 2011 Liz marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I used to live in Japan and I should have known what I was going to get when I opened up this book- a translation of a prizewinning Japanese novel- yet somehow it didn't resonate. Maybe it was the awkwardness of the translation with its clunky conversational style, but I found it hard slog. The title made no sense to me. The characters didn't strike a chord. I think I expected something different- maybe a supernatural yarn?- but intead I got some heavy meditations on death, dying, relationships, ...more
John Armstrong
I pretty frustrating read for me. It had a strong first act (Tagame), sagged terribly in the second (Berlin), and then was all over the place in the third, introducing the (admittedly interesting) idea that that gave the book its name (changeling) only at the very end. I'm going to give Oe another chance (or two, or three), but he may just be too much of an I-novelist for my tastes.
May 29, 2012 jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I don't know, 2 1/2 probably. Now I remember why I kinda like Oe but he's not my fav. The premise and the first third or so is fucking irresistible (over-the-hill Japanese dude listening to his dead friend soliloquize from beyond the grave via outdated audio equipment and big hipster headphones -- holed up night after night in his private bedroom, ignoring his wife and special needs son)... but things kind of go south when Oe layers in the actual story. Plot lines be dangling like threads from R ...more
Sep 30, 2014 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This novel deals with the aftermath of suicide. An aging man – a Japanese writer with the provocative name of Kogito – struggles to make sense of his life after his dearest lifelong friend Goro kills himself. At first, the suicide would seem to have been a curiously isolated act of violence, as all of the central characters are artists and intellectuals of the highest order, dwelling in a cerebral world of music, literature, cinema, art, and ideas. However, in the course of Kogito's ruminations, ...more
Patrick McCoy
I was intrigued to read Kenzaburo Oe’s novel The Changeling (2010) when I heard that it was about Oe’s brother-in-law the deceased filmmaker Juzo Itami. I had read mysterious reports about Itami’s suicide that suggested that it might have come at the hands of yakuza, which had earlier slashed his face for his portrayal of them in one of his films. It is clear from the tone of the novel that Oe believes it was a suicide; there were reports that one of the women he was cavorting with was going to ...more
Michael David
This is my first Kenzaburo Oe novel.

It's readable. I, however, disagree with Oe as regards his perspectives regarding Murakami's works. To me, Murakami is a more eminently readable writer, and a more exciting one, too. I didn't have a hard time reading the novel, but I wasn't really affected either. It's something I won't heartily recommend to anyone, but it's basically an okay read.
Jorge Borrani
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lewis Manalo
Mar 14, 2010 Lewis Manalo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yo, this book is intense! "Inspired by" the author's real life friendship with Juzo Itami, director of the classic TAMPOPO who died under mysterious circumstances in the late 90's, the story starts out at a low simmer, and though it never gets overly dramatic, the quiet tension gets unbearable. Thank God for uplifting endings.
there are some really great things happening in here but i found myself to be wildly frustrated with all the inconsequential exchanges (berlin, lectures) and academic circlejerking that fill in the gaps.

aforementioned joy comes from seances with a late film maker that serve as a catalyst for digging into the past.... reflections on the act of creating works, qualities of the medium, an awareness of interpretation both local and abroad, fate, the duality of memories and truth, and naturally furth
The promise of the idea seemed unfulfilled. It felt that there were a lot of points brought up in the novel which weren't actually fully explored or explored at all. Maybe if I knew more about Oe/Itami it would have helped.
Will E
Jan 07, 2011 Will E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about history and it's effect on life and writing - see my review at the Open Letter website at
Mar 11, 2015 Sebadiaz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meandering look at the relationships we have with our loved ones both while they are with us as well as when all that remains are the memories due to their passing. I loved the simple nature of the story and the fact that even when dealing with sort of metaphysical topics the characters remained wholly grounded and would not introduce any fantastical elements.
The pacing is slow and we learn about the world and the characters not through direct exposition but through their interactions with Kog
JJ Aitken
Jul 30, 2014 JJ Aitken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have found a new author to follow who has sent me on a hunt for the others. Such an original and moving work of fiction between two old friends. It is the deceiving simplicity of intentions that is the brilliance behind this novel. A novel that has risen back up to me for months now. It has done that rare thing only a great novel can do which is to make one view life differently afterwards. Especially the relationship one has with that very close friend in our lives. My life will continue to b ...more
Jul 09, 2010 Sara rated it liked it
if herman hesse and jose saramago had a baby and that baby was an old man, he'd have written this book.
Aug 13, 2015 Kaui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was surprisingly accessible for a foreign Nobel laureate in Literature. My experience with Mr. Oe's bretheren (Orphan Pamuk, Jose Saramago, Mario Vargas Llosa) is that though these authors are worth it, they can be difficult to access. Perhaps my experience with Mr. Oe has been facilitated by my previous encounters with his bretheren, but unlikely. This book is a quiet reflection on friendship, one's self and life path, and what such reflections garner the introspective indiv ...more
Jennifer Davies
Jan 18, 2015 Jennifer Davies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. It begins with the suicide of Goro, the bother-in-law of the character Kogito Chokos. Prior to the suicide Goro had been sending cassette tapes to Kogito and so it feels as though he is speaking from the grave. It is all to much for his family and so they suggest that he takes a job at the University in Berlin to get away from the cassettes. He eventually returns to Japan but still continues to analyse his feelings about the suicide and ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a slow-motion Murakami. Thick with literary references, temporal jumps, plus a touch or two of magical realism.

It took me two months to finish this novel. I realize it's probably a good book (Oe is a Nobel prize-winner) but reading it wasn't enjoyable. Too often the allusions, and whatever meaning I was supposed to gain from them, went beyond me.

Lovely sketch of male-male friendship though. With a dash of insight about Japanese marital relations. Read it if you like Japanese fiction. If not
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new book or new translation 3 15 Apr 27, 2010 03:38PM  
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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 about Kenzaburō Ōe...

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“It's a little bit like what Akari said to his grandmother in Shikoku, during her final illness: 'Please cheer up and die!” 8 likes
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