A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe


Author: Kenzaburo Oe

Title: A Personal Matter

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1969

Number of Pages: 165

Geographical Setting: Tokyo, Japan

Time Period: Post WW II

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Bird’s son is born with a mental disability, and Bird deals with the guilt, shame, and fear by running away. He turns to alcohol and sex with old lovers, while ignoring his wife. Bird must decide whether or not his son will live. Though doctors, friends, and family offer suggestions, Bird ignores them and loses himself in the city.  Bird is affected by both an acquaintance willing to make a sacrifice to be in love and the experiences with an old friend he had deserted (much like his son). Ultimately, Bird faces his fear and returns to his son, who lives.

Subject Headings: Japan – Fiction, Disability – Fiction, Father-Son Relationship – Fiction, Medical Ethics

Appeal: Haunting, Depressing, Introspective, Complex, Medical, Ethical, Familial, Poetic, Powerful, Societal, Darkly Humorous, Frank

Three terms that best describe this book: Human struggle, Depression, Shame

Relevant Fiction:
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman (disability, euthanasia, father-son relationship)
Accidents of Nature by Harriet Johnson (cerebral palsy, youth, questioning self-worth)
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (physicial disability & romance)
Relevant Nonfiction:
The New Disability History: An American Perspective by Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky (disability, expository, American)
Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints by Carrie L. Snyder (euthanasia, ethics, opposing viewpoints)
No One’s Perfect by Hirotada Ototake (disability, biography, Japan)

Name: Stephen Koebel


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