Wednesday 17 September 2008

Nip The Buds, Shoot The Kids by Kenzaburo Oe.

Set in the second world war, this novel follows the fortunes of a group of teenaged reformatory school boys, evacuated from the city and dragged about the countryside until a village that will take them in is found. When they are finally taken in, an outbreak of disease causes the villagers to flee, leaving the despised group of boys trapped in their abandoned village. The boys try to carry on on their own, and make a stab at building a life and society of their own. Then the villagers return, and the high-handed brutality of the adult world re-establishes itself.

It's a very short but vivid and intense story which doesn't flinch from dealing with violence or sexuality. It's been compared to The Lord Of The Flies, but if anything is the exact opposite, with the despised children attempting to live a decent, fulfilling life in the absence of adults, and being plunged back into a state of abject captivity when the adults return.

I felt the book suggested that the war had completely compromised the moral authority of the adult world, and only those who were not a part of it, either because they were children, refugees or deserters, had any chance of rediscovering what it meant to be human. Everyone here is more or less corrupt here in direct relation to their degree of assimilation with the adult world.

A very bleak and haunting little book.


Rod McBan said...

I remember liking this book. I can't remember what I thought of its point, though (I always forget a few weeks after reading something).

Your analysis seems pretty fair, though.

JP said...

>>(I always forget a few weeks after reading something)

What happens to me is that my interpretation often shifts as time elapses. So it's useful having a record of my first reaction.