In “A Personal Matter” Oé throws directly an ethic dilemma, one of the most terrible decisions a father can make: killing his own son. Its protagonist is Bird, a disturbed intellectual in a failing marriage whose utopian dream of going to Africa, collapses when his wife gives birth to a brain-damaged child. Though the assassination does not happen in the novel it is what keeps the plot spinning, and we only learn in the very last moments that all his efforts are destined to fail, so in the end the real horror is questioning what is worse. Like in other works by Oé (The novellas in “Teach us to outgrow our madness”) the recurrent karma of the damaged son is the epicenter of the narration, a constant well of despair and reflections,
A fragment of an interesting interview with Oé:
Q: Do you believe that a writer chooses his themes or do they come upon him?
A: Nadine Gordimer has written that we don't choose a theme or a situation or story. The theme chooses us, that is the goal of the writer. The time, the days choose us as a writer. We must respond to our time. From my experience I can say the same thing as Nadine Gordimer: I didn't choose the story of a handicapped son, or we didn't choose the theme of a handicapped boy's family. I wanted to escape from that if it were possible, but something chose me to write about it. My son chose me. That is one definite reason I continue to write.
Q: You write in another essay, "The fundamental style of my writing has been to start from my personal matters and then link it up with society and the state and the world."
A: I think I am doing my works to link myself, my family, with society -- with the cosmos. To link me with my family to the cosmos, that is easy, because all literature has some mystic tendency. So when we write about our family, we can link ourselves to the cosmos. But I wanted to link myself and my family with society. When we link ourselves to society then we don't write very personal matters but we are writing an independent novel