Oe Kenzaburo was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. This critical study examines Oe's entire career from 1957 -- 2006 and includes chapters on Oe's later novels not published in English. Through close readings at different points in Oe's career Yasuko Claremont establishes the spiritual path that he has taken in its three major phrases of nihilism, atonement, and salvation, all highlighted against a background of violence and suicidal despair that saturate his pages. Oe uses myth in two distinct ways: to link mankind to the archetypal past, and as a critique of contemporary society. Equally, he depicts the great themes of redemption and salvation on two levels: that of the individual atoning for a particular act, and on a universal level of self-abnegation, dying for others. In the end it is Oe's ethical concerns that win out, as he turns to the children, the inheritors of the future, 'new men in a new age' who will have the power and desire to redress the ills besetting the world today. Essentially, Oe is a moralist, a novelist of ideas whose fiction is densely packed with references from Western thought and poetry.
This book is an important read for scholars of Oe Kenzaburo's work and those studying Japanese Literature and culture more generally.