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The Stones Cry out: A Novel


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Winner of Japan's prestigious Akutagawa Prize, Okuizumi's English-language debut, originally published in Japan in 1993, is a lyrical, riveting study of obsession, family disintegration and war's dehumanizing effects. Reclusive Manase, a WWII veteran who runs a bookstore in a mountainous town northwest of Tokyo, is haunted by the atrocities he witnessed, during the war's final months, in a cave on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. When his captain ordered the execution of malarial, skeletal Japanese soldiers considered "dead weight," Manase stood by silently, full of guilt and shame, while his invalid comrades were massacred. In addition to his recurrent nightmares of this war crime, Manase carries another legacy from the caveā€˜the dying words of a Japanese geologist, who said, "Even the most ordinary pebble has the history of this heavenly body we call earth written on it." This Blakean pronouncement propels Manase, after the war, to become a fanatic collector of rocks and fossils, an amateur geologist whose obsession with finding, polishing and classifying specimens is his way of coping with suppressed guilt and pain. Then the unsolved murder of Manase's young son Hiroaki in a cliffside tunnel triggers family breakup. Manase's alcoholic wife is inconsolable. She becomes violently abusive, deliriously accuses Manase of killing the boy, accusations, we later learn, that cannot be totally dismissed, because Manase may have been present that day on the cliffside. Suspicion falls more emphatically on an uncaught serial killer, and also on Manase's emotionally neglected younger son, Takaaki. The second half of this sensitive, beautifully translated novel focuses on Manase's frigid relationship with brooding, resentful Takaaki, who becomes a militant student radical in the riots of 1968, then goes on to join a revolutionary faction. The cinematic denouement, where Manase visits the quarry where Hiroaki died and hallucinates that he is back in Leyte, is not entirely satisfying or convincing, but Okuizumi is a natural storyteller, his deceptively simple, low-key style magnetizing. (Feb.)

"There is a German verb, grassieren, which means 'to be rampant, rife, prevalent, to prevail.' The word might as well derive from G nter Grass, rampant with bravura showmanship, rife with impudent trickery, and, in the end, prevailing.-The Washington Post "The volume is Grass's magical mystery history tour, a mix of fiction, reminiscence, and nonfiction, an idiosyncratic time machine."-The Boston Globe

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