Death by Water: Book summary and reviews of Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe

Death by Water

by Kenzaburo Oe

Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe X
Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
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  • Published Oct 2015
    432 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

Kenzaburo Oe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for creating "an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today." In Death by Water, his recurring protagonist and literary alter-ego returns to his hometown village in search of a red suitcase fabled to hold documents revealing the details of his father's death during WWII: details that will serve as the foundation for his new, and final, novel.

Since his youth, renowned novelist Kogito Choko planned to fictionalize his father's fatal drowning in order to fully process the loss. Stricken with guilt and regret over his failure to rescue his father, Choko has long been driven to discover why his father was boating on the river in a torrential storm. Though he remembers overhearing his father and a group of soldiers discussing an insurgent scheme to stage a suicide attack on Emperor Mikado, Choko cannot separate his memories from imagination and his family is hesitant to reveal the entire story. When the contents of the trunk turn out to offer little clarity, Choko abandons the novel in creative despair. Floundering as an artist, he's haunted by fear that he may never write his tour de force. But when he collaborates with an avant-garde theater troupe dramatizing his early novels, Kogito is revitalized by revisiting his formative work and he finds the will to continue investigating his father's demise.

Diving into the turbulent depths of legacy and mortality, Death by Water is an exquisite examination of resurfacing national and personal trauma, and the ways that storytelling can mend political, social, and familial rifts.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Layered and reflexive…Told in echoing and overlapping accounts of conversations, telephone calls, and stage performances, Oe's deceptively tranquil idiom scans the violent history of postwar Japan and its present-day manifestations, in the end finding redemption." - Publishers Weekly

"[A] pensive novel, at once autobiographical and philosophical. ... It's vintage Oe: provocative, doubtful without being cynical, elegant without being precious." - Kirkus

This information about Death by Water was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Kenzaburo Oe Author Biography

Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1935, in a village hemmed in by the forests of Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan.

The Second World War broke out when Oe was six. Militaristic education extended to every nook and cranny of the country. Young Oe, therefore, experienced the nation's myth and history as well as those of the village tradition, and these dual experiences were often in conflict. After his father's death during the war, his mother took over his father's role as educator.

Japan's defeat in the war in 1945 brought enormous change, even to the remote forest village. In schools, children were taught democratic principles, replacing those of the absolutist Emperor system, and this education was all the more thorough, for the nation was then under the administration of American ...

... Full Biography

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