Keith Staskiewicz
October 02, 2015 AT 05:32 PM EDT

Death by Water

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Kenzaburo Oe
publisher
Grove Press
genre
Novel

We gave it a B

From early on, Oe placed himself far outside the constrained tradition of Japanese masters like Yasunari Kawabata and Junichiro Tanizaki, preferring instead the messiness of real life. The most recently translated of the Nobel Prize winner’s semiautobiographical “I-Novels” continues to retread old subjects and themes—a process Oe has compared to musical elaboration—as his literary alter ego returns to his childhood home to gather string for a book about his father’s drowning, while attempting to patch a rift between himself and his middle-aged son. There is a certain impenetrability and slogginess for the unfamiliar reader, but the novel ultimately rewards patience. B

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