Nobel Prize-winner Kenzaburo Oe's recurring protagonist and literary alter ego returns to his hometown village in search of a red suitcase fabled to hold documents revealing the details of his father’s death during World War II: details that will serve as the foundation for his new, and final, novel.
True Oe devotees may find this thrill in Death by Water, but thrilling or not, it remains a thoughtful reprise of a lifetime of literary endeavor. It’s like the story of the emperor’s new clothes, only with the man in question gazing calmly at his audience and declaring yes, it’s true, he’s completely naked and he wouldn’t have it any other way. You have to admire his serene and total conviction, even if you flinch from the view.
Simply, it's best to be patient here. Oe may have made a trek of a novel, but he's made one that's worth the extra effort. Eventually, by the final pages, all those early difficulties give way to another challenge entirely: Just trying to let it go.