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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.
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Kenzaburo Oe is also the author of A Personal Matter, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, and A Quiet Life, among others. He has been awarded many honors, including the Prix Europalia and the Nobel Prize for Literature.From Booklist:
*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. --Ray Olson
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