A Quiet Life by Kenzaburo Oe


A Quiet Life is a blend of fiction and memoir, written in a series of chapters which can be read as short stories. We follow Ma-chan, a young woman left at home to take care of her brothers, after her parents left for America, where her father was invited to be a writer in residence. Her father K has found himself in a "pinch", which requires his wife to accompany him. Ma-chan is suddenly left in a role of a head of the household and what we are reading is her "house journal", which she has promised her mother she would keep. Even though Ma-chan is the narrator, the novel revolves around Eeyore, her mentally handicapped older brother with a great musical talent. O-chan, her younger brother studies for university entrance exams and I perceived him as a side character stepping in when it’s necessary.

The novel isn’t especially plot driven, I found it a rather peaceful read. I liked Ma-chan , her honesty and sense of observation while she is trying to come to terms with her changed everyday life. In each chapter she explores various themes through literature and film, as well as the society she lives in. We don’t know what the source of her father’s "pinch" is, however people in the book keep wondering about it. Is it a writer’s block, a case of depression or a spiritual crisis? Whatever it is, it seems to be serious enough for his wife to leave her children at home, particularly Eeyore, who needs special care. Ma-chan informs her mother regularly about what goes on at home and the difficulties she encounters, but she doesn’t return until the last chapter, when violence Ma-chan and Eeyore experience makes her leave her husband to take care of his "pinch" himself.

I read this book a couple of months ago, but somehow didn’t get to writing about it till now. I consider the fact that the story stayed in my mind a good sign, since there are a lot of books I read and almost immediately forget. I liked how Kenzaburo Oe describes everyday life and at the same time explores life’s important themes. A Quiet life slowly swept over me while I was reading it, but somehow it didn’t blow me away. I don’t think it’s meant to.

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A Quiet Life je kombinacija avtobiografije in leposlovja. Napisana je v obliki serije poglavij, ki se lahko berejo kot kratke zgodbe. Pripovedovalka je Ma-čan, ki skrbi za starejšega in mlajšega brata, potem, ko sta starša odpotovala v Ameriko, na univerzo v Kaliforniji, kamor je bil oče povabljen kot gostujoči pisatelj. Oče, K, se je znašel v "škripcu", ki je dovolj resen, da ga na potovanju spremlja žena. Ma-chan tako ostane doma, nenadoma v vlogi gospodinje, zgodba, ki jo beremo pa so njeni zapisi v hišni dnevnik. Čeprav je Ma-čan pripovedovalka, se zgodba vrti okoli njenega starejšega brata Ijorija, ki zaradi poškodbe možganov potrebuje posebno obravnavo. O-čana, mlajšega brata, ki študira za sprejemne izpite na fakulteti, sem dojela kot stransko osebo, ki stopi v ospredje takrat, ko je treba, sicer ostane v ozadju.

Knjiga ni posebno napeta, bere se mirno, brez pretresov. Ma-čan mi je bila všeč, v svojih zapisih se mi je zdela iskrena do sebe in dobra opazovalka dogodkov okoli sebe, posebej družinskih članov. V vsakem poglavju se s pomočjo literature, filma in družbe v kateri živi, sprašuje o resnih življenjskih temah. Ne izvemo kaj je vzrok "škripca", v katerem se je znašel njen oče, čeprav se ljudje v knjigi o tem nenehno sprašujejo. Gre morda za pisateljsko blokado, depresijo ali duhovno krizo? Očitno je dovolj velik razlog, da se njegova žena odloči, da mora z njim v Ameriko, doma pa pusti otroka s posebnimi potrebami in hčer, ki naj prevzame skrb zanj. Ma-čan mater sproti obvešča kaj se dogaja doma, kakor tudi o težavah, s katerimi se sooča, vendar se mati ne vrne, dokler se Ma-čan in Ijori v zadnjem poglavju ne znajdeta v nasilni situaciji, kar jo motivira, da se vrne domov in pusti moža, da se s svojim "škripcem" ukvarja sam.

Knjigo sem prebrala pred nekaj meseci, vendar zapis o njej nekako ni prišel na vrsto. Dejstvo, da mi je ostala v spominu je gotovo dober znak, saj se mi dogaja, da nekatere knjige prehitro pozabim. Všeč mi je bilo kako je Kenzaburo Oe opisal vsakdanje življenje in hkrati razmišljal o resnih življenjskih vprašanjih. Zgodba mi je po svoje počasi zlezla pod kožo, medtem ko sem jo brala, vendar v meni ni povzročila "hudih pretresov". Po mojem niti ni mišljeno, da bi jih.



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