Kenzaburo Oe (1935-)

“Japanese novelist. Oe is widely read in his own country and considered by many to be the finest writer of his generation. His first work, a novella called Shiiku (1958; tr The Catch, 1972), describes the friendship between a Japanese boy and a black American prisoner of war. Published while Oe was still a student, it received the prestigious Akutgawa award. In Oe’s early works, madness and violence are commonplace. His fiction explores Japanese feelings of betrayal, dislocation, and alienation in the wake of World War II, and his political writings focus on Japan’s search for cultural and ideological roots. Oe’s later works reflect his intense and painful experience as a father of a brain-damaged child: Kojinteki na taiken (1964; tr A Personal Matter, 1968); Man’en gannen no futtoboru (1967; tr The Silent Cry, 1974); and Warera no kyoki o ikinobiru michi o oshieyo (1969; tr Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels, 1977). Oe’s style has been described as innovative, wild, and vital and has angered certain critics by flouting prevailing Japanese literary conventions of delicacy and simplicity. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, only the second Japanese writer so honored (Kawabata was the first, in 1968.).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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