Book cover design: Kenzaburo Oe’s The Silent Cry

14 October 2016

Our designer Steve Panton shares his thoughts on the new Serpent’s Tail Classic repackage of Kanzaburo Oe’s masterpiece The Silent Cry.

The covers below are both the final cover (‘O’) and four unused concepts. The final cover depicts the main character, Mitsusaburo, a Japanese businessman, surrounded by plant life upon his return to his family home in a remote forested valley on Shikoku, in the south of Japan. The contrast of urban and rural within this photograph is a theme that runs through the novel.

In the novel, the forest is not only an integral location but can be viewed as a character itself. Because of this, I focused the majority of my other visuals on obscure close-ups of trees and plant life.

Following the style of covers across our Classics series,  I chose a single stand-out colour – in this case, red. I chose it not only for its links to Japan (e.g. the red circle on the country’s flag) but also to reflect the violence within the book. In one memorable scene, a man commits suicide after painting his head red.

Whilst I am really fond of my other concepts, the strongest design won. Not only is it striking but it is unsettling, surreal and compliments the themes of the book.

Let us know what you think at @serpentstail and

 The Silent Cry