Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
Cover of Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (English-language edition)
|Original title||芽むしり仔撃ち (Memushiri ko-uchi)|
|Translator||Paul St. John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama|
|Genre||War novel, Japanese literature|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback and Paperback)|
It was originally published in 1958. The English version was translated in 1995.
The novel deals with fifteen adolescent boys from a reformatory in World War II Japan. The boys (including the unnamed narrator and his brother) are sent to a rural village (strongly echoing the regions of Shikoku in which Ōe was raised) to live and work. Upon arrival, the boys find the village afflicted by plague, with piles of rotting animal corpses dominating the atmosphere. Soon after the boys' arrival, the villagers flee from the plague to a neighboring village, barricading the boys in and abandoning them to their fate.
The group is joined (in stages) by a Korean boy named Li, a deserter from the army, and a young girl who has been abandoned in a warehouse. The boys attempt to make the most of their situation; Li teaches them to hunt birds, resulting in a jubilant festival, and the narrator finds love with the young girl. Their situation turns after a few days, however; the girl dies of plague after being bitten by a village dog, the narrator's brother runs away into the wild forest (and presumed dead), and the villagers eventually return and are furious with the state in which they find the village. Fearful of the repercussions should it become known that they abandoned the boys to die, they stab the deserter and alternately threaten the boys with violence and ply them with food. All members of the reformatory boys eventually agree to keep silent about the actions of the villagers, with the exception of the narrator. At the close of the novel, he is chased into the forest by the villagers to an unknown fate.