Nobel Prize-winning Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe dies at 88 | CNN


Hong Kong/Tokyo

Japanese Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe, a writer who was renowned for a strong pacifist stance that weaved its way into much of his work, has died of “old age”, his publisher confirmed Monday.

The publisher, Kodansha, said the 88-year-old had passed away ten days earlier on March 3.

The Nobel Prize website described Kenzaburo Oe as someone “who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”.

Born in 1935 in the western prefecture of Ehime, Oe debuted as a writer in 1957 and went on to win his Nobel Prize in literature almost four decades later.

He was handed the award in 1994, becoming the second from his country to claim the title following short story writer Kawabata Yasunari’s win in 1968.

Oe’s writing is heavily influenced by his childhood memory, having grown up around time when Japan was defeated in World War Two.

He wrote about the plight of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and had in recent years taken part in rallies against former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to review Japan’s pacifist constitution.

“By exercising collective self-defence, Japan will directly participate in a war,” Oe told people at a rally in 2014.

“I’m afraid that Japan’s spirit is approaching its most dangerous stage in the past 100 years,” he added.

Abe, who was assassinated last year, had long argued Japan needed a more assertive approach to defense, especially given China’s historic rise in recent decades.

Oe’s other inspiration was his brain-damaged son, Hikari, who was unable to communicate for years as a child.

The writer, who was married Yukari, the sister of late film director Juzo Itami, saw it as his mission to give his oldest son a voice through his writing.

The young Oe studied French literature as a graduate student at Tokyo University. He began publishing stories during his studies and won the career-launching Akutagawa Prize, which paved the way for his rise to prominence in the literary scene.

Following his Nobel Prize, he was subsequently awarded Japan’s Order of Culture, handed to the country’s top artists, writers and scientists for their outstanding contributions.

But Oe refused to accept it at the time because it was awarded by the Emperor.

“I do not recognise any authority, any value, higher than democracy,” he said.

He also advocated for Japan to relinquish nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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