It has been said by some that to know a country is to read its novels; far better than to read its (manufactured) history. Novels too are manufactured but novels are more likely to expose the emotional and spiritual "truth" of the country concerned. In THE SILENT CRY the writer OE covers much historical, emotional, social, Japanese ground but does it in such a way as to make it a wonderfully entertaining journey for the reader. I for one would love to read a Freudian criticism of it. For example, a recurring motif is suicide, in various forms, one being hanging and that image is conveyed by a the anti-hero's best friend who removed all his clothes, painted his head red, shoved a cucumber up his arse and then hanged himself; another being the anti-hero's brother who shot himself in the head the remains of which reminded the brother of a pomegranate. Such vivid imagery recurs throughout this novel. Another distinguishing feature of it is its lack of cliches, its almost poetic prose, poetic in the sense of dense. You daren't skip a phrase let alone a line. It is a rich read. Historically, the novel covers the transition from an agrarian village life to the impact of the supermarket, racism, the vulnerability of the Japanese economy (this written in 1966- in 2001 have the Japanese finally faced up to real economic reform?)foreigners, and on the cover, an artistic representation of the Hiroshima ground zero. The one-eyed hero is self-effacing and has an alcoholic wife, retarded son and is a cuckold. His brother is vain, hostile, proud, an adulterer who has sex with his retarded sister. It is true that it is reminiscent of the Cain and Abel story or the Brothers Karamazov and I think it deserves mention in that mythical company. Its themes that resonate with me most tellingly are the need for one and one's country to come to terms with the truth about the past. The anti-hero Mitsu is on a search for the "truth" throughout the novel.As an individual I need to come to terms with my mother's suicide as well as other aspects of my personal history. As an Australian, my nation needs to come to terms with its past and our genocidal attitude to Aboriginal Australians. The second theme for me is that constant internal worrying and guilt can be self-defeating - at the close of the novel Mitsu feels "throughout the time remaining to me..a hundred pairs of eyes (of his cat, of his great grandfather, brother, wife) would glitter like a chain of stars in the night of my experience. And I would live on, suffering agonies of shame under the light of those stars, peering out timidly like a rat, with my single eye, at a dim and equivocal outer world..."(p.269) Yet, at the urging of his now pregnant wife, he chooses to accept a job in Africa instead of a job at a University, symbolic I would guess of his need to accept the past come to terms with it and get on with living, for some sort of peace. Survival becomes the key to that peace. Its weird at the end too because despite all the preceding horrors, the novel's ending creates in the reader a wry grin or satisfying chuckle as the anti-hero realises with his new job he may be able to achieve an important personal goal - building a thatched hut.A memorable read.