Sunday, July 10, 2011


Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, Kenzaburo Oe, Grove Press (English translation), 1985, (Kodansha Internation, 1958, Japanese publication), 189 pp

Kenzaburo Oe won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. This is his first novel, published when he was 23. It is based on his experiences as a child growing up on a remote Japanese island during World War II. When I read the book last November, I was going through a period of reading about WWII from the Japanese point of view, for which I was glad. It opened my eyes and mind, helping me to shake off some of my high school history teachings.

The kids in this story are from a reform school and have been transported to a small village set in a mountainous region. It is winter, they are cold, not well fed, and routinely roughed up. Because there have been a couple instances of plague in the village, the villagers evacuate and disappear, leaving the boys trapped there with no hope of escape. One boy is determined to find a way out.

Surprisingly, to a certain degree, the boys rise up out of their feral state and begin to come together as a community, though at first they are dismayed and directionless without orders from adults. Sadly, in the end they are doomed. The main character, the one who tried to find an escape, is the only one who just barely benefited from his brief brush with freedom.

It is a harrowing story on a level with Lord of the Flies and J G Ballard's Empire of the Sun. The writing is excellent and I liked the book.

(Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids is sometimes available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time. If it is out of stock it can be ordered for you.)

No comments:

Post a Comment