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The Silent Cry

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,867 ratings  ·  244 reviews
The Silent Cry traces the uneasy relationship between two brothers who return to their ancestral home, a village in densely forested western Japan. While one brother tries to sort out the after-effects of a friend's suicide and the birth of a retarded son, the other embarks on a quixotic mission to incite an uprising among the local youth. Oe's description of this brother' ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published July 7th 1994 by Kodansha International (first published 1967)
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Aidan I wouldn't describe The Silent Cry with the word 'enjoyable'. Neither do I agree with some people that this was a 'difficult' read. It's not difficult…moreI wouldn't describe The Silent Cry with the word 'enjoyable'. Neither do I agree with some people that this was a 'difficult' read. It's not difficult, and it's not enjoyable. But neither is it unpleasant, or easy. Those are not the qualities that apply to this book. (less)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Steven Godin
Kenzaburō Ōe uses an historical 1860 uprising as the basis for his dark novel of two bothers soul-searching, and enduring a personal crisis in postwar Japan, a world where existence and myth deliquesce to form a disturbing picture of the human predicament. With reverberating touches of Dostoevsky and Mishima, Ōe's powerful story concerns that of Mitsusaburo, the married older brother living and working out of Tokyo, and Takashi, young and confident returning from the United States after being in ...more
J.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
This is a very difficult read, not as in 'dense' but as in 'unpleasant'. And made no easier by the author's resolve to lead the narrative to the most intentionally uncomfortable places he can imagine; there is to be no outlet or uplift at any point in the novel, and we can tell from the first few pages. For the rest of the book we will be encircled by fear, constraint, control, fate and deep mood swings.

We're led down the emotional plumbing along with a kind of numb / punchdrunk narrator, whose
...more
Zak
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A mesmerising read. Mesmerising not in a beautiful, sweetly lyrical sense but gripping, dark and brutally frank. Piercing, insightful metaphors and phrases abound. The opening chapter was so amazing, I thought I had found another 'Vegetarian'. Alas, the one drawback was that I found the plot, based on a present day uprising aimed at reenacting another which happened a hundred years before, not very interesting in and of itself. It would have been better if the middle part, which dwelled a bit to ...more
Daniel Clausen
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
***I’ve tried to eliminate the spoilers; but be WARNED -- somewhat spoilery***

Early in the novel, the main character, Mitsu, finds himself in the pit where his septic tank will soon go. He goes into the pit to think. The position is symbolic, as everything is in this novel -- a graphic depiction of his psychological state and our place in the novel. The world has become a septic tank and Mitsu is looking for a way out of the pit.

Set in the early to mid-1960s, in a small town in Japan, the novel
...more
Curtis Westman
Silent Cry, by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, takes place in Japan in the late 1960s, following Mitsusaburo, his wife Natsumi and his brother, Takashi as they return to the rural valley community where Mitsu's family has lived for over a century. Mitsu is an anti-hero of the lowest calibre -- weak-willed, ugly and inert -- and from the beginning of the novel there is a significant amount of tension in his marriage as Natsu has succumbed to alcoholism.

The opening of the novel sees Mitsu finding
...more
S̶e̶a̶n̶
Everything around me—the dark brown stretches of withered grassland where the snow had completely vanished, leaving the soil parched and powerless as yet to put forth new life, even the somber evergreen heights of the forest beyond the groves of great deciduous trees—had an air of indefinable loss, like the dead ruin of a human being, that awoke an obscure uneasiness in me as my gaze roved across the hollow.
This is one of those novels where all the characters are miserable and bad things are
...more
David
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-red-circle
You can read Oe's books without visiting his hometown (obviously) but I'm still so ashamed that I visited his hometown without having read "Prize Stock", "Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids" or "The Silent Cry". What did I think I was doing?

"The Silent Cry" was brutal. Kenzaburo must be the most honest man on the planet. I have no idea how his friends and family can live with his writing. Yukio Mishima said something nice for the dust jacket, but I bet he winced his way through this. Ouch. It's like O
...more
Guillermo Galvan
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished The Silent Cry right before the window of July shut for eternity. My reading of the book is locked away from me by an invisible wall that materialized overnight. I am glad of this because Oe’s book terrified me. In fact, The Silent Cry is the most frightening book I've ever read.

The Silent Cry is about a depressed intellectual who returns to his ancestral village with his younger brother who plans to incite the young men to overthrow a local Korean businessman, "The Emperor of the Sup
...more
Smiley
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
Acclaimed by the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature committee for its dealing "with people's relationships ... in a confusing world" (back cover), this novel is psychologically complex due to its context primarily related on "the clash between village life and modern culture in postwar Japan" (Paris Review: The Art of Fiction No. 195) as perceived and involved by the narrator temporarily living there with his wife, his brother and a few followers. One of the complex issues is that Oe has tried to ex ...more
Emily Hughes
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diana
The Silent Cry [1967/1988] – ★★★★★

In The Silent Cry, we are presented with the early 1960s and Mitsu, a disillusioned husband to an alcoholic wife and a father to a child who is now in an institution. Mitsu sees his life changing when his estranged brother Takashi arrives from America and together they travel to their native village in Shikoku, one of the main islands in Japan. There, they find that there is a shift in local power and one rich Korean magnate is proposing to buy what remains of M
...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel infused with darkness and despair, Oe’s prose eschews the ethereal style which is so inherent in Japanese literary aesthetics in favour building a of a nightmarish and phantasmagorical atmosphere, dominated by darkness and shadows, of delirious russets and refulgent with death and despair. The style is disconcerting and unsettling, a collection of mirages beneath the half-light within which he disaffected and unreliable narrator presents the novel-some, such as this description of a snow ...more
Tom Shannon
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark book. Told through comparisons to a Japanese uprising 100 years prior, the characters struggle to find meaning and make their way forward in a small village. The influence of existentialism and especially Sartre on the telling of the story is very apparent. Using the theme of connecting to similar people in the past, the search for a life that is worthwhile eludes the characters as much as it eludes us.
Lobstergirl
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Forrest Claypool
Shelves: fiction

I plucked this from the library shelf in my quest to read more serious Japanese authors, and more Nobel Prize winners (Al Gore excepted). (Literature Nobels.) Ōe was not really a household name, in my household. He merged Japanesely with other writers like Yukio Mishima, Natsume Sōseki, and Shūsaku Endō, whose names I would sometimes spot on the shelves at the local used book shop, and mostly ignore.

The Silent Cry (1967) feels like serious writing, Nobel writing, dense with meaning, although at
...more
Dave Russell
Feb 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This book reminds me of why I hate baseball. The action doesn't start until the batter steps up to the plate, but before that there's a lot of waiting. First he has to take some practice swings. Then adjust his cup. Then maybe spit. Only then...no wait, one more cup adjustment.
The first 3/4 of this book was a bit of a slog to get through. I kept waiting for Oe to get to the plate, but then I got to the last two chapters and it's like he hit a stand-up triple. Everything suddenly made sense: One
...more
l.
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't mean to be dramatic but the climax ruined me for a few hours. I went back and reread that part so maybe that didn't help, but Oe can really pack a punch.

Other reviewers have noted echoes of Demons in this book and they're right but as much as that book meant to grade 12 me, this book was much more harrowing. I'd recommend it, but with a warning - though that would be unnecessary as the book starts immediately on a note that should alert even the most imperceptive reader to the fact that
...more
Alex
Mar 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peasants, forest, revolution! Supermarket! Complementary brotherpairs, whiskey, ruffians, storehouse, ritualized violence!

Seemed diffuse and evocative. Wish I knew more about 1970s Japanese peasantry. Interesting parallels to fiction re: Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Trauma, shame, guilt, guilt, guilt.

Overwhelmingly sad. But in an abstract sense.
Mona
Oct 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story was so awesome. But, please prepare for the tiredness reading the first few pages of Indonesian version.

The tiredness didn't come from the story, but from the crowd of letters in a single-space format and type of papers used.

But I can guarantee that the book is worthed to read due to the awesomeness of Oe's storytelling.

...more
Gertrude & Victoria
The Silent Cry is a more serious work than many of his other novels and give us plenty to contemplate. The plot develops and builds steadily toward a shocking climax. This is arguably Oe Kenzaburo's masterpiece. The story is filled with plenty of psychological tension in under three hundred pages.

Like all his novels, it is about family, the protagonists being two brothers, who return to their hometown from Tokyo after many years of absence. There is a stream of conflict, which builds quietly, bu
...more
Andrew
It made me think of Eraserhead. There's a deformed baby and an anxious father and a catastrophic landscape filled with grotesques. Other points of reference might be Juan Rulfo's "Pedro Paramo" and Bruno Schulz's "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass," or a sadly underappreciated Thai film called "Wonderful Town." The comparison of a Japanese novel to American, Mexican, Polish, and Thai works of art suggests a remarkably international common thread. There's all the same sense of unspeakabl ...more
Kyle Muntz
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a great novel held back by a weak translation and (in my edition) a weirdly small font. still, this novel felt like the purest expression of oe's grotesque realism: fatalistic, ambiguous. it bleeds existential pain ...more
Ferzair Cik Somn
I have actually put off reading this book because of the first few pages, the one that addressed a somnabulatic narrator fall into a dark pit. If you are patient, like I was well into the new year I soldiered in reading, you will be rewarded with Kenzabure Oe's masterly ways of weaving the dream into truth, history into present day, a brother to his own, a protagonist into an antagonist.
It is not ab easy breeze of a read, expected of when one is unfamiliar with Japanese internal conflict and cu
...more
Frederick Glaysher
The Silent Cry. A Novel by Kenzaburo Oe[return][return]The Global Cry…., June 24, 2000[return][return]Let me discuss “The Silent Cry” and Oe’s work in general by first sketching in a broader view of Kenzaburo Oe’s literary interests.[return][return]No other Japanese writer has seen as deeply into Mishima’s suicide and the “vacuum” of modern Japanese life as has the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, Kenzaburo Oe:[return][return] “His death was a performance for the foreign audience, a very spect ...more
Stuartandbooks
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange suicides, peasant uprisings, a hermit who lives in the woods, and the fattest woman in all of Japan. My first read of 2021 and my first book by Kenzaburo Oe. Taking place in 1960s Japan The Silent Cry is Oe's existentialist masterpiece with heavy themes of shame and guilt and how people respond to psychological trauma. The Silent Cry is one bleak, dark, and bizarre novel taking a look into the psyche of the human condition yet it is absolutely gripping and I couldn't put it down. Oe uses ...more
Oskar Kvalsvik
This book is amazing. Has poignant social commentary and is written masterfully. I knew this book was going to be dark, but not this dark. woah this book hurt my soul.
Kurt Chircop
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a book that has incest, rape, suicides, murder, bad relationships and no time for humor with a lord of the flies vibe set in Japan, this book is for you.
Iqra S. Cheema
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surreal, beautiful, human, and political. It brings deeply personal and deeply political together in a heartbreaking way.
Thomas
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is extremely good at making you feel depressed and anxious, even more so than A Personal Matter. like all Oe books the protagonist here has a mentally disabled child but in this one the mentally disabled child is more of a background detail to add to the general gloom rather than the main focus of the book. all in all its great fun for the whole family.
Matt Simpson
Whilst this books critically engages with many interesting topics - capitalism in postwar Japan, the concept of inherited guilt - I personally struggled to get through this book, resorting to reading small sections at a time. This is most likely because of a combination my own ignorance of rural Japanese lifestyle and the writing style (allegorical, quasi-magical realist at points) being difficult to translate from Japanese to English. I would recommend only if you have a more than passing inter ...more
Omar Sabri
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
surreal and gives you a feeling of tranquility yet can be very disturbing
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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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“The fear of blindness created a moment's vacuum, serving as a relaxant for my exhausted and overheated brain.” 10 likes
“Now I was just a transient in the valley, a one-eyed passerby too fat for his years, and life there had the power to summon up neither the memory nor the illusion of any other, truer self. As a passerby I had a right to insist on my identity.” 6 likes
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