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Death by Water

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Малкият Когито е нагазил до гърдите в придошлата река и гледа как мътните води отнасят лодката, в която е баща му. Десетилетия по-късно момчето вече е прочут писател и се завръща от Токио в родното си село. Там се надява да открие истината за смъртта на баща си в края на Втората световна война и да напише книгата на живота си. Как да се справи с демоните на историята – лич ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Grove Press (first published 2009)
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3.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  450 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Elyse Walters
May 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Kogito Choko was called Kogii when he was a child. He grew up along the river, (a proficient swimmer), 'A Forest House' with his parents and sister, Asa, in the town of Shikoku... surrounded by friends, relations, and community.
He attended Tokyo University as a literature major. Thinking at the time he would become a French literature scholar....
It was his mother who planted the seed saying..."if he can't find a regular job, then he'll most likely become a novelists!"
His mother had made
Paul Fulcher
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"So one of my main literary methods is “repetition with difference.” I begin a new work by first attempting a new approach toward a work that I've already written—I try to fight the same opponent one more time. Then I take the resulting draft and continue to elaborate upon it, and as I do so the traces of the old work disappear. I consider my literary work to be a totality of differences within repetition."

Kenzaburō Ōe in an interview with the Paris Review:
Roger Brunyate
Déjà, Déjà, Déjà Vu

I have now read three books by Oe: the comparatively early Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (which I greatly enjoyed), this one, and its immediate predecessor, The Changeling . In my review of that, I compared it to a fractal image, in which any one part contains references to every other, not just within the novel itself but seemingly revisiting most of the author's oeuvre. For the first third of this latest novel, I felt I was reading The Changeling all over again. The first-
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Death by Water – perhaps the last novel by Nobel Laureate Kenzabure Oe is a fascinating book. A book to provoke both conversation and consternation, offering insights from the personal to the political.

The narrator Kogito Choko is an ageing author, reflecting on his life as a writer, and facing not only his own mortality but also the slow death of his books in the modern age. As the parent of Akari, a disabled child, he must ensure this son’s care into the future as well. While the women of this
Sorry Kenzaburō, but if you haven't grabbed me after 200 pages, I don't think it's going to happen...
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The title “Death by Water” is taken from a phrase for drowning used by T.S. Eliot in the poem “The Waste Land”

Our novel focuses on the ageing famous writer, Kogito Choko (Kenzaburō Ōe), and opens with his return to the family home, ten years after his mother’s death, at his sister’s request. This reconciliation of family now gives Choko the, long deferred, opportunity to finish his novel that is about his father’s drowning death. As we explore more of this time it is also a reflection by Choko o
Smiley (aka umberto)
A 3.5 star novel.
Around the first one-third of its length I found his story a bit slow on a theme on his life as an acclaimed author embittered by his father's tragic demise when he was a young boy. Eventually he planned to write a novel related to this incident tentatively entitled "Death by Water" (like this copy). Soon an important character named Unaiko has seemingly run into him in a park till he fell and she kindly helped him and thus become acquainted via their talking. Soon his son in hi
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 2016-mbi
Strangely hypnotic.

I know very little about Japanese literature apart from having read nearly all of Haruki Murakami's books. Murakami's books fall into two categories for me: the first is the group of weird ones that I really love and the second is the group of stories about maudlin, introspective people whose heads I want to bang together telling them to just get on with life. This book felt a bit like this second group a lot of the time. But then I found myself hypnotised by the text and bein
Stephen Douglas Rowland
May 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
The repetitive ramblings of an once great old man. It pains me to bash Oe, but this novel is terrible.
Lisa Guidarini
[Originally published: New York Journal of Books]

Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe brings the novelist career of his literary alter-ego, Kogito Choko, to a close with the publication of his new novel, the most recent in the series, Death by Water. This installment explores the intensity of interconnectedness between parents and their children, particularly, but not exclusively, between fathers and sons.

Its themes of regret and loss saturate the book with a heavy sense of sadness it’s difficult to shak
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
DNF 20%.
Death by Water isn't a fast flowing river, but a slow, monotonous drip. About a novelist helping a group of performers make his work into a play while he researches a book more than a decade in the making, you wouldn't expect a lot of action, but what you get is so much circular talking. The same stories and symbols repeatedly dissected at great length. The author speaks, people tell him what they think, plays are performed, he speaks again... more people explain how they feel... and so
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Took me 2 months to finish. I'm glad I did but it took real effort. I read a lot of Oe as a high school student who was trying to get deeper into Japanese culture beyond just anime and video games. His sardonic style stuck with me but I imagine I missed a lot of nuance reading those books at age 14-15.

I found this book slow, frustrating and impossibly addictive. I'm very glad I finished it, and the book's last act was a true pleasure to read. But it took me about two months of intermittent read
Dec 28, 2018 marked it as dnf-d
Nope. It's hypnotic yes. Almost like meditation, yes. But fruitful? Meh, I gave up 100 pages in. I'm done feeling bad for DNF-ing books. Life's too short. You read enough books and learn your limits. You develop a discernment of whether you should continue reading a certain book or not. Thats 4 hours of my life I won't get back. But ok. Fine.
Chris Angelis
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Personally, I don't believe in narrative plot. I think it's overrated - grossly so, as I explain here in more detail for anyone interested. Rather, I think that good books (especially literary-fiction ones) should be rather predicated on characters and affect. There can be vastly interesting narratives with literally "nothing happening", as long as the author pays attention to rendering characters that are complex, human, realistic, and that absorb and express affect.

And so, I was not troubled b
Jenni Link
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
In this "I-novel," the Oe stand-in Kogito Choko returns to his rural hometown on the island of Shikoku to retrieve a suitcase full of his long-deceased father's papers and belongings. He plans to use them to complete a novel that he hopes will be his late-work masterpiece, and whose theme will be his father's (possibly intentional) drowning shortly after Japan's WWII surrender. Now nearing 80, he has already attempted to write this novel once, decades ago, only to be disowned by his mother and s ...more
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I was a teenager my friend bought me a copy of Oe's A Personal Matter. The book had a major impact on me. It has stayed w/ me. This was a kind of autobiographical writing that seemed extremely brave to me, though it depicts (in a way that eschews false pride) a kind of torment that I could not have begun to properly understand at so young an age. Of course, I thought I understood it. And I suppose I did abstractly. But I had not lived anything remotely approximate to what was written in tha ...more
Brian Grover
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
I haven't read the work of many Japanese novelists, and I was struck first by the title and cover art of this book, then by the notes on the jacket (Oe is a Nobel Prize winner, this book was long-listed for the Man Booker, and Harper's blurbs him as "Japan's foremost novelist"), so I decided to pluck this off the front table at McNally Jackson and bring it home.

I'm not saying Murakami is God's gift to literature, but his books are infinitely more entertaining than this was. Oe's protagonist, who
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another fabulous find out my local library. This fabulous novel, short listed for the Booker Prize, covers a lot of ground. The story is told from the point of view of an aging and well respected novelist, who has wrestled with his grand opus centred around his father's tragic death when he was a small child near the end of WWII. A call from his sister raises his hopes as he is called home to retrieve his father's old red truck, which he supposes holds his letters and diaries and other papers th ...more
Alan Chong
Nov 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
I'm going to chalk this one up to me just not getting it. It is a frustrating read, with very few rewarding moments. I kept on listening to the retelling of the same stories over and over again, thinking it would go somewhere, but it never did. And it is a terribly "literary" novel, in a sense the culmination of a productive and important writer's career, and very much about that. Of course, I hadn't read any of his other books and knew nothing about him, and so was detached from the material. A ...more
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unlike other books I've read, possibly unlike any other, this is like a meditation, it slows your reading, it slows your thoughts, and it hangs around in your head as a meditation. Very unusual. It's not an exciting, plot-driven book, in fact very little happens in it for more-or-less the entire 420-odd pages. I feel a little uncomfortable daring to give only 4 stars to a book by a Nobel Prize winner and, of course, I can't comment on the translation as I don't read Japanese. Reflections here on ...more
Fran Caparrelli
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book but as I was unfamiliar with his work I had to do some background research on his writing. It helps to know a little about some of Japan's history. The author's works all seem to reflect his own life and it helps to know that. I actually found it helpful to read the reviews of this book as I was reading it. It is supposed to be the author's last book and the author in the story is also an elderly writer working on his last book. There are some unusual aspects in that the ...more
Olivia Putyer
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's a very clever reduction to a symbolic resemblance: 森森 - 淼淼. Well, it's a lot more than that. But I view the book as an expansion of this similarity as both compounds are used as metaphors for dying, reconnecting to a spirit abounding afterlife in a fantasy realm of water and forest.
Very compelling plot, the voices of the characters are monotone and intellectual (I prefer it this way), drama is subdued and controlled.
I very warmly recommend it.
Just This
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
dear mr oe, you get four stars because you made me think. about the nature of the novel, as well as the nature of life itself. there were times i got bored while i was reading this book, but i have a feeling it's one of those ones that stays with you. i really must check out that edward said guy too...
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and demanding exploration of several themes: life and death, autobiography and fiction, theater and the novel, family and suicide and disappointed hope and the reemergence of hope. Told in a straightforward, artfully unartful way. Hard to put down and hard to pick up. But, finally, worth the read.
Tailwinds Press
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This would be a difficult book to recommend, yet it is nonetheless another great work by Oe. While some may see this work as perhaps both plodding and unemotional, it is an incisive statement on both Japanese and modern society, aging, memory, familial relations, violence, and nationalism.
Roger N.
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I am good enough to write about this book, a complex, layered examination of memory, dreams and history, both personal and national, and how they effect everything about who we are. It took a while to read, but was worth the effort.
Kasa Cotugno
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Heavily symbolic novel by Nobel Prize winner in contention for International Booker Prize. Beautiful and thought provoking.
Jerry Pogan
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kenzaburo Oe is still one of the best writers out there. He tends to use himself and his family as characters in his books and it always leaves me wondering where reality ends and fiction begins.
Ken Martin
Aug 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Would have given it no stars if that was an option.
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
DNF 1/3 through. I just can't make myself care about the characters...
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The Mookse and th...: 2016 Longlist: Death by Water 10 29 May 28, 2016 04:11AM  
ManBookering: Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe 11 69 Apr 10, 2016 07:15AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Translator Name missing for Oe book 2 17 Mar 14, 2016 05:40AM  

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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
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“You're right. I'm the old man who wasn't able to become one of those fish (however many there may have been) swimming eternally in the bluish-green light of the grotto beyond the crack in the rocks.” 1 likes
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