Kenzaburo Oe Cause of Death: How Did Nobel-winning Japanese Novelist Die? Explained
Nobel prize-winner and Japanese Novelist Kenzaburo Oe dead at 88.
Who was Kenzaburo Oe?
Oe Kenzaburō was born on January 31, 1935, the Japanese novelist whose works express the disillusionment and rebellion of his post-World War II generation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. Oe comes from a wealthy landowning family that had lost the majority of its holdings due to the occupation’s forced land reform after the war.
In 1954, he enrolled in the University of Tokyo, and his graduation was in 1959. He was acclaimed as the most promising young writer since Mishima Yukio because of the brilliance of his work while he was still a student.
Kenzaburo Oe Cause of Death
Kenzaburo Oe, who won Japan its second Nobel Prize for literature with books about pacifism and his disabled son, has died. His death, on March 3 at the age of 88, was due to old age, his publisher Kodansha said.
When Japan was destroyed in World War Two, Oe was ten years old. His memories include being asked in school each day if he would die for the Emperor and feeling ashamed when he realized that he wasn’t when he went to bed each night.
In 1960 he married Yukari, the sister of late film director Juzo Itami, noted for his satires of modern life. Hikari, the first of their three children, was born four years later.
Awards and Appreciation
When Shisha no ogori (1957; Luxurious Are the Dead), which was included in the journal Bungakukai, was released, Oe first made headlines in the literature world. But he produced a mixed bag of literature. Memushiri Kochi, his debut book, was much appreciated and translated as “Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids.” With his second book, “Shiiku,” he received the prestigious Akutagawa Award (1958; The Catch).
His Nobel Prize was followed by Japan’s Order of Culture, but he refused to accept it because it was awarded by the Emperor and said: “I do not recognize any authority, any value, higher than democracy.”
However, Warera no jidai (1959; “Our Age”), his second book, was poorly received because his colleagues thought he was becoming more and more absorbed with social and political critique.
Oe- A Novelist
He wrote about gruesome tales of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and noted how his shock at what he heard may have been his inspiration for becoming a writer.
Oe was never afraid to hold his native country to account and was scathing about former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Japan bore “some” responsibility for the war, he said in a 2014 interview. “This war, in which so many large powers were involved, caused great suffering for people all over the world… And it is a reality that within this immense war, nuclear weapons were created and used.”
Always a pacifist, Oe became an even more vocal critic after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, saying that Japan had “a sacred duty” to renounce nuclear power, the same way it renounced war under its constitution. In 2013 he organized an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo and in 2015 joined thousands to protest moves by Abe to let Japanese troops fight abroad.
What was the driving force of his literature?
His brain-damaged son Hikari also became a driving force of his literature. Hikari was for years unable to communicate with his family but as an adult became known as a composer. Oe has said that much of his writing was an attempt to give Hikari a voice.
Oe’s reaction was expressed through Bird, the hero of his celebrated 1969 novel, “A Personal Matter.” The book mirrors his life–in particular, the hellish week when he faced the choice between death and life for his son, freedom or bondage for himself:
Like Apollinaire, my son was wounded on a dark and lonely battlefield that I have never seen, and he arrived with his head in bandages. I’ll have to bury him like a soldier who died at war.
But the boy did not die.
No longer would the sweet, easy tears of mourning melt it away as if it were a simple jelly. Swaddled in the skin as red as shrimp which gleamed with the luster of scar tissue, the baby was beginning ferociously to live.
The baby was still alive when Oe returned from a short writing assignment to Hiroshima, where the astonishing bravery of the atomic bomb survivors filled him with shame about his own attitude. When the agonized victims had every reason to commit suicide but did not when the doctors had every reason to give up but never faltered in trying to heal and comfort their patients, how could he deny the tiny life struggling to survive, his very own son?