Artists are not allowed to draw explicit sexual acts

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Unformatted text preview: as well put off his escape until sometime after that.57 The themes of freedom and escape from the fetters of modern society are important also in the work of Òe Kenzaburò, although Òe presents the issue more clearly as that of alienation and anomie. In Òe’s typical schema, the individual is caught in a society that makes stifling demands upon him, demands that he cannot meet and that, therefore, render him a failure, at least in his own mind. Compounding the personal alienation and fear that he is going nowhere in life is the more widely shared social malaise of anomie that sees no direction in the life of society as a whole (that is, postwar Japan, the home of economic animals who have poured their souls into the transistor radio). Such an individual—held in the grip of alienation and anomie—is Bird, the hero of Òe’s A Personal Matter (Kojinteki na Taiken, 1964), a novel startlingly similar in conception and plot to John Updike’s Rabbit, Run. As the story begins, we find Bird at age twenty-seven, married and awaiting the birth of his first child. We learn how he was drunk for four weeks after his marriage two years earlier, how he had to withdraw from graduate school, and how he subsequently turned to his father-in-law to obtain an unpretentious job as teacher in a college-preparatory cram school. Bird dreams of going to Africa and has just bought a set of Michelin road maps of the distant continent. Wandering the streets while waiting for news of his wife from the hospital, Bird is attacked by a gang of dragon-jacketed hoods and is beaten to the ground: It occurred to Bird that the maps must be getting creased between his body and the ground. And his own child was being born: the thought danced with new poignancy to the frontlines of consciousness. A sudden rage took him, Culture in the Present Age 345 and rough despair. Until now, out of terror and bewilderment, Bird had been contriving only to escape. But he had no intention of running now. If I don’t fight now, I’ll not only lose the chance to go to Africa forever, my baby will be born into the world solely to lead the worst possi...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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