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With Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel, “Death by Water,” on the longlist of the Man Booker International Prize this year, the Nobel laureate’s work is again receiving the global attention it richly deserves.

“A Quiet Life,” first published in Japanese in 1990, retreads many of the themes and tropes that have defined Oe’s oeuvre. There is the famous novelist, his brain-damaged son with a genius for music, and the honest, often brutal depiction of the darker side of Japanese life. Where “A Quiet Life” differs is in Oe’s choice of narrator.

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