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On the surface “The Silent Cry”— first published in 1967 — is the story of Matsu, his wife Natsu and his brother Takashi, who return to the Shikoku village of their birth to negotiate the sale of some family property to “the Emperor of Supermarkets,” a Korean brought to Shikoku as a slave during World War II who has since come to dominate the village. Takashi soon organizes the local youth and leads a rebellion against “the Emperor” while Matsu picks apart the secrets of his own family’s past. But as always with Oe, the story is only the beginning.

Oe had strong links with the French existentialist philosophers, studying French literature and marching with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in Paris in 1961. “The Silent Cry” is his most overtly existentialist work.

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