The Changeling

Kenzaburo Oe did not attend an MFA Program. His upbringing in postwar Japan and possibly a life in today’s Japan that’s a psychotic marvel also seem to impact his writing in some measure. For someone used to American fiction, this is novelty enough. And Elif Batuman while dismissing postwar American literature as dishonest, captures why I like The Changeling despite serious flaws.

The author’s love for literature and his knowledge of it are unmistakable. And rightly or wrongly, Oe in a weird way acquiesces Elif Batuman’s central argument and treats knowledge with a certain respect. In what is now generally a postmodern world, such respect is almost a throwback to a feudal past. Japan, perhaps, is therefore an ideal setting.

I would not say I enjoyed reading this book[1]. But I think I now enjoy the fact of having read it. This, for some odd reason, is an under-utilized selling point. Another case in point: Europe Cental by William Vollmann.

[1] — The book is in part well written and at times not so well crafted. I tended to blame the translator for that; I later realized the over use of cliched writing was deliberate. That did not really work for me. However, Kogito’s discussions with his dead friend on art and literature and their nature are honest, enjoyable and a reminder that dichotomy is never a solution space.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment