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*Starred Review* Japan's greatest living novelist has brought the autobiographical novel and the roman à clef to the highest artistic distinction by merging them. His and his family and friends' thoughts and doings are nearly always the stuff of his novels. This book opens with Kogito, a distinguished novelist, listening to audiocassettes just sent him by his oldest friend, Goro, a filmmaker. After his pal says he's going to head over to the Other Side now, there is a loud thud on the tape. Goro's voice returns, saying he won't stop communicating with Kogito. Then Kogito's wife interrupts to tell him that Goro has committed suicide by jumping off a roof. (Oe and Juzo Itami, whose Tampopo was an international hit, were longtime friends, and the latter's 1997 death was identical to Goro's.) Communication does continue, first as Kogito vocally responds to the tapes, then in memory while the novelist undertakes a guest lectureship in Berlin, where he meets Goro's chaste, last young lover. The ghostly colloquy gradually focuses on an incident the friends shared as late teenagers in the sticks where Kogito grew up. 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. This one ends with a willfully upbeat line by Oe's fellow Nobelian, Wole Soyinka.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2010 Booklist
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One night, as writer Kogito Choko is listening to a tape his brother-in-law, Goro, has given him, he hears Goro say that he is heading over to the Other Side. Just after these words, Kogito hears a loud thud, and then the words continue with Goro's promise that he will not stop communicating with Kogito. After a few moments, Kogito's wife, Chikashi, informs him that Goro has committed suicide. Left with a trunk full of cassette tapes from Goro, Kogito sets off on a quest to recover his own and his brother-in-law's past-a journey that carries him from Japan to Berlin. It is Kogito's wife, however, who discovers Goro's real secrets and that life's meaning is not to be found among the living or the dead but among the unborn, those who can change (a changeling) from a child into a cunning trickster. VERDICT Nobel Prize winner Oe's sometimes turgid, sometimes lyrical novel offers haunting perspectives on the nature of life and death. While Oe's fans comprise the main audience for this new novel, fans of Milan Kundera and Gunter Grass will also appreciate the magical way in which Oe weaves inquiries into the haunting nature of the past with questions about the nature of human identity and memory. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/09.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In 1997, Juzo Itami, one of Japan's most successful film directors, jumped to his death in Tokyo. Nobel laureate Oe (Hiroshima Notes) was Itami's brother-in-law, and he transposes Itami's suicide, under a fictional disguise, into a dazzling and elaborate maze of memories and meditations centering on the suicide of film director Goro Hanawa. Goro has made a series of tapes for Kogito, his world-famous writer brother-in-law, as groundwork for a possible film, which Kogito listens to obsessively after Goro's suicide. To rid himself of Goro's ghost, Kogito travels to Berlin, but even there he runs into pieces of Goro's past. Eventually, the reader is led back to the two men's youthful involvement with a right-wing paramilitary group founded by Kogito's late father. What begins as a weekend spent at the group's camp turns into something sinister from which Goro emerges fundamentally changed. Oe's deft mix of high intellectual reflection and absurd slapstick scenarios is polished to a high gloss, giving this book a tone that may remind American readers of Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved