A father whose child is born with a brain hernia tries to flee his responsibility for the child. In his shame, fear, and confusion he turns to alcohol and an old girlfriend and also agrees to give the child only sugar-water. The child wills to live, however, and finally the father, who has deserted others during his lifetime, realizes he cannot desert his son. He allows the surgeons to operate even though the child's future is uncertain.


This novel, written by a man whose own son was born with a brain hernia, vividly portrays a young father's fears, shame, and pride. Bird, as his name suggests, tries to fly away; physicians, friends, and family offer varied suggestions about what he should do, but Bird doesn't know how to evaluate them. He avoids his wife--she appears only once, but devastatingly, in the novel--and seeks to lose himself in the bowels of the city. An acquaintance willing to give up everything for love and an old friend whom he once deserted make Bird realize he must return to his son.

Oe's novel portrays one father's reactions to such a birth, and although it ends "happily," the novel should be considered along with Oe's story Aghwee the Sky Monster (see this database),
in which a father in similar circumstances makes a different decision. In an informative and relevant interview published by The New Yorker magazine (February 6, 1995, pg. 38) Oe discusses how his life and work have been influenced by his son's disability.


First published: 1964. Translated by John Nathan.



Place Published

New York



Page Count