Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age! Summary

Kenzaburō Ōe


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age!, the novelist-narrator reflects on many difficult challenges facing him in life. The narrator’s career path bears many similarities with that of e, who published other autobiographical novels about distressed fathers of disabled children. This novel recounts the harrowing circumstances of Eeyore’s birth (also described in A Personal Matter), when the baby was born with two brains, one protruding outside his skull that was surgically removed. The protagonist’s single-letter name alludes to Kokoro (1914), a novel by Natsume Sseki, in which the character K impedes the path of the protagonist toward ideal love. In the same way, K’s son Eeyore provides a constant stream of funny, disheartening, and shocking statements that cause the narrator to stumble. As K attempts to understand Eeyore’s peculiar behavior, he is propelled toward new definitions of life, death, love, and human compassion.

On one of his frequent trips out of Japan, K happens to buy an edition of the Complete Works of William Blake, the eighteenth century British poet, visionary, composer, and engraver. K recalls that many years ago he had attempted his own translation of a Blake poem in the midst of a writing project. As the father of a severely handicapped son, K feels his imagination being drawn toward the world of Blake as a means of explaining suffering and life’s ironies. Blake’s poems become a...

(The entire section is 529 words.)

Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age! Bibliography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sources for Further Study

Booklist 98 (February 1, 2002): 908.

The New Yorker 78 (May 20, 2002): 113.

Publishers Weekly 249 (January 28, 2002): 267.

Review of Contemporary Fiction 22 (Fall, 2002): 145.