A Personal Matter – Kenzaburō Ōe

December 17, 2012 § 5 Comments

This was my second attempt at reading this book. The first time, I couldn’t get past the first ten pages, before I put it back down again. At that time, I remember thinking that the writing was bland, the flow very slow. To be honest, I was almost disappointed that a book by Ōe could be this boring.

That was about two years ago, probably even longer than that, I’m not sure. But for some reason, I picked it up last month, because I wanted a quiet book to read. I wasn’t up for something bizarre like Murakami; I didn’t feel adventurous enough for Sarah Waters or David Mitchell. I was having serious trouble trying to finish Shame by Taslima Nasrin. Not to mention what life was dishing out to me.

I just needed something quiet. And I wanted a book that could get me back into reading again.

A Personal Matter was just the book for me. Having last read it so long ago, I discarded the bookmark that I had left in there, and started the book fresh. It has done wonders for me.

Perhaps it’s because it’s been such a long time since I last posted my thoughts on the books I’ve read – somehow I’m finding it difficult to decide where and how I should start talking about my experience with Ōe and A Personal Matter.

I remember, in the beginning, the reading was slow, but I found that I rather liked the fact that everything was so detailed, each expression and emotion described in a style that was so upfront and forthcoming. Ōe didn’t hide behind language and words – he simply used words as his vehicle to tell a story. No matter how hard the truth sounded, it almost seemed like he refused to decorate with fluff and frills.

From reading his work, it’s like he’s telling me that life is hard, and his story is simply meant to convey that message.

But there was one major turning point in the book. It was at the very moment Bird realised, and admitted to himself, that he wanted his handicapped baby dead. In his heart of hearts, he knew having this thought was morally wrong and unacceptable. But at the same time, that was what he felt, and for the first time, that was when he openly admitted it to himself. And the guilt he suffered for even thinking the thought was just so much to bear.

It was at that point in the whole narrative when I so strongly felt and understood why the book was titled as such. These are thoughts we don’t share with others, thoughts that remain in the deepest, darkest corners of our hearts and minds. It really was a personal matter.


§ 5 Responses to A Personal Matter – Kenzaburō Ōe

  • sakura says:

    There are certain books that need to be read at a certain time in order to experience their full impact. And I’m glad that you gave this book another try. I haven’t read anything by Oe yet, probably because somehow it doesn’t feel like I need to read him yet. But I hope to. Lovely post!

    • Michelle says:

      I know. Sometimes you’ve got to be in a certain mood, or have had some specific types of experiences in your life, to be able to appreciate a book, or a certain type of writing.

      I’m glad for this book. It’s gotten me back into reading.

  • jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com says:

    Wonderful encouraging post.(a book is like a chariot it can take you any where you want.) Have a joyous holidays.jalal

  • Mel u says:

    I love the work of Oe. It makes me sad to know that much of his work has not yet been translated

    • Michelle says:

      It is rather sad. His work seems very deep, quite “inwards” if you know what I mean. Would be so wonderful if we could read more of his work.

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