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Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids Hardcover – 1 May 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; First UK/USA Edition edition (1 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714529974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714529974
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 644,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Two of our boys had escaped during the night, so at dawn we still hadn't left. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 26 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Written in 1958, when the author was only twenty-three, this debut novel is stunning for its depiction of two societies--the society of peasant villagers who live in a remote and nearly inaccessible mountain village, and a society created by young delinquents after they are abandoned and blockaded inside this small village. It is also reflects the author's vision of the broader society of Japan in the aftermath of World War II. Author Kenzaburo Oe was ten years old when the war ended and the Emperor, the "living god," announced the surrender of the country. In the years leading up to the publication of this novel, Japan and the Occupation forces came to agreements and influenced each other, and Oe believes that this led to a sense of emptiness and ambiguity in society--the old values and ways of life were gone, while the increasingly influential western values were not necessarily compatible with Japanese history.

Many western readers of this novel will be shocked to discover how "un-Japanese" in style this novel is. Oe, a student of Sartre and Heidegger in college, embraces those influences in his writing, instead of the delicacy, subtlety, and minimalist simplicity one usually associates with the Japanese arts. The novel is characterized by dense imagery, a strong narrative line and powerful emotions, violence presented as an understandable response to injustice, and an indictment of the communal mindset which can lead to expedient decision-making at the expense of the individual and his liberty.

Narrated by an unnamed delinquent who is one of fifteen boys being evacuated from their reformatory to a remote mountain during the war, the novel shows the inhumanity with which these boys are treated by the peasants for whom they are expected to work clearing the fields.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A harsh yet utterly compelling read, narrated by a boy from a reformatory, evacuated with his mates into a village while World War 2 rages elsewhere. And while the war itself doesn't touch the characters, it infects the adult villagers around them, who treat the youths brutally:
' "Anyone caught stealing, starting fires or making a row will be beaten to death by the villagers. Even so we'll shelter and feed you. Always remember that in this village you're only useless vermin." '
Amid freezing conditions and with bad food, the kids are soon called up to bury a heap of decaying livestock, in a grisly scene. But it soon appears that the animals are dead from plague, and for five days the adults flee the village, leaving the youths to fend for themselves. Yet they are not alone: there's a young girl, a Korean, a friendly dog and a runaway army cadet...

Often horrifying, yet with moments of great beauty and they wash to keep free of plague, they find a crab; the narrator has a close relationship with his kid brother, lending him his camel tin-opener and watching him play with his dog; and the kids make a skating rink when it snows. But such moments just emphasize the brutality that forms the major part of the work all the more. A memorable work.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ms. V. Marriott on 16 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thanks for getting this to me so quickly. I only had a week left before my book club and it arrived as promised within just a few days. The book was hardback which was an unexpected bonus. It was also in excellent condition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 26 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Nip the Buds 31 Aug. 2002
By C. E. Stevens - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was the first book by Oe that I have read, and although it's probably not one of his better known books (he wrote it when he was just 23) I found it very powerful and insightful. The story itself reminded me a bit of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (which was actually written a year AFTER Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids was published). The major difference I found between the two books was the difference in where the authors placed the evil forces in their book: for Golding, the evil (the gaping void, the mouth of the "Lord of the Flies) was inside of each individual. For Oe, the evil was in the system, the outside pressure from society on the group of young boys. When outside forces intrude in Golding's book, chaos ends and civility is restored. The opposite happens in this book.
Additionally, Golding's tale is an extremely universal one. The boys in the book happen to be English, but there's no reason why they couldn't be American, Japanese, Brazilian, etc. On the other hand, Nip the Buds is written with specific regard to its setting: wartime Japan. Oe himself is surprised by his worldwide appeal: he says he writes to his fellow Japanese, his own generation in particular. Several of the themes, including that of heartless, fickle villagers, is common to Japanese fiction (Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" and Abe Kobo's "Woman in the Dunes" come to mind instantly). This book in general is written with obvious scorn for senseless violence and specifically, Japan's role in World War II. This is not to say that Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids can only be appreciated by elderly Japanese people (I certainly am not in either category). But, as is often the case with Japanese literature, it's very important to try to understand the environment the author was living in and commenting on at the time.
Oe's writing is supposed to be a bit abrasive to the Japanese eye, but in translation at least, it was straight-forward and simple to read. It would be easy to call Nip the Buds a graphic book, but journalistic might be a better term. This book is told through the eyes of a youth who has seen it all. He doesn't link ideas such as love and sex or violence and killing, but often treats them as completely separate ideas. Despite the callousness in this book, there is a lot of emotion as well. The reformatory kids' bond is solid (until the end), and the tie between the narrator and his younger brother, and the narrator and the girl is very real and vivid. Seeing these bonds wrenched apart one by one until the narrator is completely alone at the end is part of the reason that Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids is such an amazingly powerful book. Oe has created a truly unforgettable work.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A disturbing work of genius 17 April 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is not an easy novel to read. From the first page to the last the reader's senses are assualted with descriptions of cruelty, violence and the various perversions of delinquent kids and savage adults. There are some moments of tenderness and consolation, but these are invariably ended by new catastrophes.
A group of kids suffer the savage blows of their elders and are then abandoned in an isolated plague ridden village under the threat of being beaten to death if they try to escape.
Comparisons have been made with Lord of the Flies. This book is stronger, harsher, with fewer moments of affection or kindness. It is set in wartime Japan and this background is quite an important element in the book, yet the story is universal, the characters and events could have been placed in any setting at any time in history.
The novel does not have a strong narrative thread. Each chapter is distinct, built round an incident and then linked into the next chapter. The heart of the book lies in the characters and their environs rather than the plot. There are countless descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, and touch - I got a very strong sense of the place where the boys live. It's an earthy, visceral novel full of blood, snow, guts, mud, sex and death.
If I had read the above description by another reviewer I probably wouldn't want to read this book, but the writing is so powerful that I quickly overcame my natural aversion to such relentlessly sordid and depressing material! A very great book, but hard to stomach at times and definitely not for all tastes.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Shoot the Kids... 27 Aug. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Oe is a brilliant writer. This was the first book I have read by him, and I was taken away. Leaving no harsh image unspoken, Oe isn't bashful about writing details that may make the reader's stomache churn.
To describe the book in a very breif synopsis, a group of reform school boys get abandoned amidst a plauge. The setting is post World War 2 Japan and the boys find a leader from the narrator, and form their own community.
Children are forced to grow up far too fast, and their age has no relevance to their minds. Once the narrator becomes an adult, and sheds his last memories of child hood, even his pride of adulthood is stripped away from him.
Filled with beautiful sentance structure and much philisophical thoughts, you will find yourself constantly quoting this book. I have reccomended it to all my friends. It is a stunning read and was a Nobel prize winner.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Dark, beautiful, tragic. 11 Sept. 2002
By Benjamin Scott - Published on
Format: Paperback
My introduction to Kenzaburo Oe, "Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids" struck me with the force of a bamboo spear. With his beautiful prose (and the complementary translation by Mackintosh and Sugiyama), Oe paints his characters with the brush of traditional Japan but in the style of a contemporary miscreant. Throughout, the book conveys relentlessly brutal portraits of an altered, horrific reality.
From the moment the reformatory boys are introduced to the end of their abandonment and the narrator's final, fearful sentences, Oe drags the reader through the hell of his ambiguous setting. Pulled along with the narrator, his brother, and their reform school compatriots, the reader follows into the nightmare of a plague-infested village and their utter isolation. While the boys struggle to eke out their existence and build lives in their newfound freedom, one is constantly on edge awaiting the collapse of their delicate system. When, finally, the villagers return and the madness of the world indeed crushes their fragile independence, the reader emulates the boys in their sense of relief and subsequent betrayal.
One of Oe's first novels, the deft manipulation of the reader's emotions and interactions between the characters promised great things for the young writer. As I begin another of his books, I cannot help but agree that he deserved his Nobel.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Powerful 26 Oct. 2004
By Kartik S. Santhanakrishnan - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have a friend once suffered from pneumonia. She read this book in the hospital when she had broken one of her ribs from a coughing fit. That is how pained and weak she was at that time. After she read the book she said she forgot her own anguish and cried for the suffering characters in this touching and tender book. I picked it up and have never been the same again. It made me angry, sad, and I wanted to do something about the injustice in this world. It made me a better person.
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