Excerpt from The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Changeling

By Kenzaburo Oe

The Changeling
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2010,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2011,
    480 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Changeling
1

Kogito was lying on the narrow army cot in his study, his ears enveloped in giant headphones, listening intently. The voice on the tape had just said, “So anyway, that’s it for today—I’m going to head over to the Other Side now,” when Kogito heard a loud thud. There was silence for a moment, then Goro’s voice continued: “But don’t worry, I’m not going to stop communicating with you. That’s why I made a special point of setting up this system with Tagame and the tapes. Well, I know it’s probably getting late on your side. Good night!”

The recording ended on this rather vague and unsatisfactory note, and Kogito felt a sudden, excruciating sadness that seemed to rip him apart from his ears to the very depths of his eyes. After lying in that shattered state for a while, he put Tagame back on the nearest bookshelf and tried to go to sleep. Thanks in part to the soporific cold medicine he’d taken earlier, he fell into a shallow doze, but then a slight noise wakened him and he saw his wife’s face glimmering palely under the fluorescent lights of the study’s slanted ceiling.

“Goro committed suicide,” she said softly. “I wanted to go out without waking you, but I was worried that Akari would be frightened by the rush of phone calls from the media.” That was how Chikashi broke the news about what had happened to her only brother, Goro, who had been Kogito’s close friend since high school. For a few moments Kogito just lay there in disbelieving shock—waiting, irrationally, for Tagame to start slowly vibrating, like a mobile phone receiving an incoming call.

“The police have asked Umeko to identify the body, and I’m going to keep her company,” Chikashi added, her voice full of barely controlled emotion. “I’ll go along with you till you meet up with Goro’s family, and then I’ll come back here alone and deal with the telephone,” Kogito said, feeling as if he were paralyzed from head to foot. The avalanche of media calls probably wouldn’t begin for a few hours, at least.

Chikashi continued to stand silently beneath the fluorescent lights. She watched attentively as Kogito got out of bed and slowly put on the wool shirt and corduroy trousers that were draped over a chair. (It was the dead of winter.) After Kogito had finished pulling a heavy sweater over his head he said, “Well, then,” and without thinking he reached out and grabbed Tagame off the bookshelf.

“Wait a minute,” said Chikashi, the voice of reason. “What’s the point of taking that thing? It’s the cassette recorder you use to listen to the tapes Goro sent you, right? That’s exactly the sort of absurd behavior that always infuriates you when somebody else does it.”

2

Even in his late fifties, Kogito still took the streetcar to the pool, and he had noticed that he was usually the only person on board with an old-fashioned cassette recorder. Once in a while he would see a middle-aged male listening to a tape and moving his lips, from which Kogito deduced that the man must be practicing English conversation. Until recently, the streetcars had been teeming with crowds of youths listening to music on their Walkmans, but now those same kids were all busy chatting on mobile phones or nimbly typing text messages on the tiny keyboards. Kogito actually felt nostalgic for the days when the tinny cacophony of popular music used to leak out of the young people’s ubiquitous headphones, even though it had seemed annoying at the time. Nowadays, Kogito concealed his bulky pre-Walkman recorder in the gym bag with his swimming equipment and wore the oversized headphones clamped around his graying head. At times like that, he couldn’t help seeing himself as a lonely, isolated symbol of the generation gap, eating modernity’s dust.

Excerpted from The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe. Copyright © 2010 by Kenzaburo Oe. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.