A Personal Matter

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Note: all Japanese names in this article are given in Western order, with surname last and given name first

A Personal Matter (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.

Plot[edit]

Bird's son, like Ōe's, was born with a brain hernia, however at the end of the novel this is revealed to be a false diagnosis of a benign tumor. Bird tries to escape his responsibility for the child and his crumbling relationship with his wife – turning to alcohol and an old girlfriend. Bird 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 make a decision as to whether or not he wants to keep the child.

Themes[edit]

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.