A Personal Matter

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This article uses Western name order when mentioning individuals.

A Personal Matter (Japanese: 個人的な体験; Kojinteki na taiken) is a novel by Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe. Written in 1964, the novel is dark, deeply personal, and semi-autobiographical. It tells the story of Bird, a man who must come to terms with the birth of his mentally disabled son.


Bird's son is born with a brain hernia, like Ōe's was. Bird tries to escape his responsibility for the child and his crumbling relationship with his wife, turning to alcohol and an old girlfriend. He is fired from his job teaching at a cram school in the process. He half attempts to kill the child, albeit indirectly, and is forced to decide whether he wants to keep the child. At the end of the novel it is revealed that the hernia was a false diagnosis of a benign tumor.


Though the novel has a "happy" end, it should be considered in juxtaposition with the story Aghwee the Sky Monster (also by Ōe), in which a father faced with a similar decision makes a different choice. Ōe's son, Hikari Ōe, despite his disability has made something of a name for himself in Japan through musical composition.