Summary and book reviews of The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe

The Changeling

by Kenzaburo Oe

The Changeling
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The Changeling, the latest from Kenzaburo Oe, is an ambitious, sweeping novel about friendships, artistic ambitions, and the distances we’ll travel to preserve both.

In The Changeling, Nobel Prize–winning author Kenzaburo Oe takes readers from the forests of southern Japan to the washed-out streets of Berlin as he investigates the impact our real and imagined pasts have on our lives.

Writer Kogito Choko is in his sixties when he rekindles a childhood friendship with his estranged brother-in-law, the renowned filmmaker Goro Hanawa. As part of their correspondence, Goro sends Kogito a trunk of tapes he has recorded of reflections about their friendship. But as Kogito is listening one night, he hears something odd. “I’m going to head over to the Other Side now,” Goro says, and then Kogito hears a loud thud. After a moment of silence, Goro’s voice continues, “But don’t worry, I’m not going to stop communicating with you.” Moments later, Kogito’s wife rushes in; Goro has jumped to his death from the roof of a building.

With that, Kogito begins a far-ranging search to understand what drove his brother-in-law to suicide. The quest takes him to Berlin, where he confronts ghosts from both his own past, and that of his lifelong, but departed, friend.

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,...

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!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Changeling is probably a good book, but it is not for everyone, and it was not for me. The book is pulled along with a compelling plot that frequently startled me with its eerie twists and sharp revelations... I had to force myself through dense blocks of text... meant, in the words of one reviewer, to demonstrate "a conviction that literature has the power to transfigure and redeem reality." But they were often quite chronologically confusing, and they lacked the psychological realism that I have come to expect in contemporary literature... Ultimately, I suspect that The Changeling is rather more fun to write about than to read, though I defer to readers more familiar with Oe's body of work and schooled in his formal style of writing for the final analysis.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (605 words).

Media Reviews

Holly Silva

In a May 2008 article in The New York Times, Kenzaburo Oe dismissed his current manuscript as possibly his last because, "When I turn 75 years old, I expect I'll have nothing left to write as a novelist." Instead, Oe, who turned 75 this year, gives us The Changeling, the substantial beginning of a planned trilogy concerning Kogito Choko, an aging novelist modeled on Oe. ... But the restraint and ease are deceptive. Painful human truths break through - or are created from - an accumulation of everyday musing. The Changeling is a top-tier existentialist work.

The Los Angeles Times

[A] richly imagined, complex story full of the oddity, irony and existential angst that have long been at the heart of Oe's writing, only here they are seen more often on the level of plot and structure than on that of sentence and image.

Booklist

Starred Review. As in previous novels and with comparable mastery, Oe deeply ponders love, sex, art, friendship, family, and death in a rich, psychologically acute rhapsody of narration anchored in personal calamities.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Once again introspection and autobiography are transmuted into compelling fiction in the latest from Japan's 1994 Nobel laureate.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A dazzling and elaborate maze of memories and meditations .... Oe's deft mix of high intellectual reflection and absurd slapstick scenarios is polished to a high gloss.

Reader Reviews

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!

Beyond the Book

About the Author
Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1935 in the remote mountain village of Ose on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Oe is considered one of the most dynamic and revolutionary writers to have emerged in Japan since World War II, and is acknowledged as the first truly modern Japanese writer. He is known for his powerful accounts of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and his struggle to come to terms with a mentally handicapped son. His dark musings on moral failure came to symbolize an alienated generation in postwar Japan. Oe's influences and literary heroes are less Japanese than American and European, ranging from Henry Miller to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Blake to Camus.

His prolific body of work has won ...

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!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Changeling, try these:

  • Murder at the 42nd Street Library jacket

    Murder at the 42nd Street Library

    by Con Lehane

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Murder at the 42nd Street Library opens with a murder in a second floor office of the iconic, beaux-arts flagship of the New York Public Library. Ray Ambler, the curator of the library's crime fiction collection, joins forces with NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove in hopes of bringing a murderer to justice.

  • 1Q84 jacket

    1Q84

    by Haruki Murakami

    Published 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell's - 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami's most ambitious undertaking yet.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.