A Quiet Life

By Oe Kenzaburo

Translated by Kunioki Yanagishita and William Wetherall

Shizuka-na seikatsu
1990 Kodansha hardcover
A Quiet Life
1996 Grove hardcover

Oe Kenzaburo
Shizuka-na seikatsu
[A quite life]
Tokyo: Kodansha, 1990
Fifth printing, 1994
267 pages, hardcover

Oe Kenzaburo
A Quite Life
<Shizuka-na seikatsu>
Translated by Kunioki Yanagishita and William Wetherall
New York: Grove Press, 1996
240 pages, hardcover

The novel

A Quiet Life is narrated by Ma-chan, a young woman who at the age of twenty finds herself in an unusual family situation. Her father is a famous and fascinating novelist; her older brother, though mentally handicapped, possesses and almost magical gift for musical composition. The lives of both father and son revolve around their work and each other, and her mother's life is devoted to the care of them both. She and her younger brother find themselves emotionally on the outside of this oddly constructed nuclear family. But when her father leaves Japan to accept a visiting professorship from a distinguished American university, Ma-chan finds herself suddenly the head of the household and the center of family relationships that she must begin to redefine.

The stories

Though the novel appears to be a single work, its parts were originally published as six independent short stories, in five literary and popular monthly magazines.

Story in novel Original story
A Quite Life "Shizkuka-na seikatsu"
Bungei shunju, April 1990
Abandoned Children of this Planet "Kono wakusei no suteko"
Gunzo, March 1990
The Guide (Stalker) "Annainin (Sutookaa)"
["Kanji (Furigana)"]
Switch, March 1990
A Robot's Nightmare "Jido ningyo no akumu"
Shincho, June 1990
Sadness of the Novel "Shosetsu no kanashimi"
Bungakukai, July 1990
Diary as Home "Ie to shite no nikki"
Gunzo, August 1990

The author

Oe Kenzaburo was born in 1935 in the remote mountain village of Ose on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. He began publishing short stories while studying French literature at Tokyo University.

In 1958, when 23 years old, he won the Akutagawa Prize for "Prize Stock" [Shiiku]. He has received many other literary honors, including the Prix Europalia in 1989 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994.

Oe's many translated works include: A Personal Matter; Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness; The Silent Cry; Hiroshima Notes; Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids; and Seventeen / J.

The translators

Kunioki Yanagishita is a full-time instructor at the International Education center in Tokyo, where he is a senior (though slightly younger) colleague of the cotranslator. Over the years, he has translated a number of speeches and lectures for Oe, some of which appear in Kenzaburo Oe, Japan, the Ambiguous and Myself (The Nobel Prize Speech and Other Lectures) [Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1995, 128pp, $15.00].

William Wetherall has translated some of Oe's early short stories, including Unexpected muteness [Japan Quarterly, Vol. 36 No. 1, January-March 1989, pages 35-44]. He has also published an essay on Oe called Buffer Zones [Ibid., pages 32-34].