Japanese Author – Kenzaburo Oe


Kenzaburo Oe is a Nobel Prize winner in Literature and needless to say one the grandsire of Japanese literature post World War II.


Kenzaburo Oe was born on 31st January, 1935 in a village now in Uchiko, Ehime Prefecture near the forests of Shikoku. He was the third in a family of seven children. His mother who was a primary school teacher bought him books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. These books had a lasting impact and he has said that he would carry it to the grave. It can be that the art of storytelling came from his grandmother who taught oral performance and art. He made his first trip to Tokyo at the age of eighteen. Next year he enrolled into the Department of French Literature at Tokyo University. His mentor was Professor Kazuo Watanabewho was a ‘specialist on Francois Rabelais’, the French writer. Watanabe could influence Oe thoughts on humanism. Oe was a confluence of humanism, French and American literature and all the tales he carried from his village. Oe started writing short stories while he was still a student in the University, in 1957. The short story ‘The Catch’ won him the Akutagawa Award. He soon began to write novels too. He has been a part of anti-nuclear and pacifist campaigns and has written on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nobel Prize was awarded in the year 1994 and it was stated that it was given for fashioning “an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”.


Kenzaburo Oe’s work revolved around many aspects like existentialism, social, political and philosophical issues. The political and social issues included works on nuclear weapons, nuclear power and social non-conformism. Oe’s son Hikari was a special child and this son had a great influence in his literary career. He wanted and gave a voice for his son through his writing. Many characters of his book had a streak of his son. A book which was almost identical to Hikari’s life was “A Healing Family’ published in 1996. It was a celebration of the small triumphs in the life of Hikari.

Popular works by the author

Some of the popular works of Kenzaburo Oe were, ‘A Personal Matter’, ‘Hiroshima Notes’, ‘The Silent Cry’, ‘Teach Us to Outgrow our Madness ‘, ‘My Deluged Soul’, ‘Rouse Up, O, Young Men of the New Age’.