Art + Culture

大江健三郎と私 Me and OE Kenzaburo

大江健三郎 OE Kenzaburo by Mario A @ TAZ, Berlin
大江健三郎 OE Kenzaburo by Mario A @ TAZ, Berlin

Oe and I were loose friends. I visited him at home, met him in Frankfurt during the book fair, or at the parties of the Akutagawa award ceremonies, or at the anti-nuclear demonstrations in Tokyo.
For me, he was an approachable person who liked to say funny, witty anecdotes.

with OE
with OE
大江健三郎、フランクフルト 1990年9月
Frankfurt – Herbst OE Kenzaburo
Frankfurt/Herbst OE Kenzaburo

“OKTOBER” von NAKANO Shigeharu
Der Himmel wird klarer, Vögel fliegen
Kaki-Früchte in den Bergen, sich biegende Reisähren im Feld
Aber vor allem, ganz früh am Morgen
benetzter kalter Nebel meine Haut
das Gesicht, die Brust, den Rücken
und sogar meine Flanke.
Frankfurt/Herbst OE Kenzaburo

Together we published the book “Japanische Schriftsteller in Deutschland (Tokyo-Frankfurt-Berlin-Hamburg)” 1991 Verlag Ute Schiller, Berlin.
It may very well be that my book “MOMENTAUFNAHMEN MODERNER JAPANISCHER LITERATUR (現代日本文学)” 1990 Silver & Goldstein, Berlin had some influence in nominating Oe for the Nobel Prize in Literature. (1)
In 1994 he proudly took his disabled son Hikari (see the novel “A Personal Experience” 1964) to the award ceremony in Sweden. Despite the Nobel Prize, he received only divided honors from Japan’s public, because Oe not only criticized the increasing nationalism in Japan, but also directed himself against the Japanese Tenno System 天皇制, ergo refusing the Order of Culture 文化勲章. A strong message to the Japanese people and the world!
As an activist against nuclear power plants, he showed the lethargic Japanese population what it means to take to the streets and demonstrate.
My humble self has also made a not to be underestimated contribution (see my body of work “the situation is under control”). (2)
Never holding back on his opinions was important to Oe throughout his life, as he once said, “The most important thing for a writer is to make up his mind to communicate the truth, and then to put that truth into words.”
He was also a co-founder of a civic organization dedicated to preserving Peace Article 9 of the postwar Constitution, and apparently played the same role in his country as Günter Grass did in Germany – the nest-destroyer.
For many, Oe symbolises Japan’s first modern writer with strong European influences and imprints, not least French Existentialism. However, he achieved his literary breakthrough with his early story “The Catch” (飼育 1958, + Akutagawa Prize), about children’s experiences of war, using a black GI as main protagonist. I highly recommend to see also the cinematic version by OSHIMA Nagisa 大島 渚.
Why his novel “Seventeen & J” (セヴンティーン) from 1961 remained a taboo for Oe, should be analysed in the proper socio-political context of Japan’s history, because at the same time the novel “Furyū mutan” (風流夢譚 1960) by FUKUZAWA Shichirō 深沢七郎 had been mobbed with brutal force, including killing, by the right wing. Check the youtube link.

[昭和36年] 中日ニュース No.369_2「言論への挑戦 -右翼テロ-」
In case of censorship: Link_
1,195 views Dec 2, 2015
この映像は、株式会社 中日映画社がお送りしています。

Not always easy to read, to “consume,” especially for readers in the Western world, he was happy to turn European reading habits on their heads (“I don’t make it easy for my readers”), but his literary rank was soon recognised, even before he was awarded the Nobel Prize – Henry Miller even put Oe in the same category as Dostoyevsky. Oe himself called his narrative style “grotesque realism” and liked to refer to the French poet François Rabelais (1494-1553).
Oe, who once called himself the “black sheep” of Japanese literature, counted even Thomas Mann among his role models when it came to combining literary and sociopolitical significance.
Born on January 31, 1935, on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Oe always saw himself as a resident of the margins. His studies of French and English literature in Tokyo was a counter-attack, a protest against the official culture, which was still influenced by the extremely strong Japanese Conservatism, the Imperial-Tenno related past.
“When I started writing novels,” he recounted, “there were two significant figures. One was TANIZAKI Junichiro 谷崎潤一郎, and the other was MISHIMA Yukio 三島由紀夫. Mishima was an extraordinary writer, but a man of the center. I was against him from the beginning, against the aesthete and the thinker. At first, Mishima acted friendly towards me. But that changed when he became ultra-nationalist. I wanted to be free of Mishima and the feudalistic Tenno Culture.” (3)
In T. S. Eliot’s wrestling with world chaos and spiritual order, he recognized a poetic impetus close to his own, in Thomas Mann’s many-limbed sentence constructions a high point of stylistic sophistication, and in Jean-Paul Sartre a model of political and moral commitment.
Even at the age of 70, he was still completing another trilogy. What had begun with “Tagame. Tokyo-Berlin” (取り替え子 (チェンジリング) 2000), a novel that sketched a new alter ego in Kogito Choko, a Berlin visiting professor with a disabled son who traces the suicide of a film director in which Oe portrays his famous brother-in-law ITAMI Juzo 伊丹十三. Oe, in a disparate mood and out of touch regarding Japanese changing society, wrote the final words on the agonies of an ageing novelist in “Sayonara My Books!” (さようなら、私の本よ! 2005).
“Not too much despair, not too much hope.” That also aptly characterises OE Kenzaburo’s view of the world. On March 3, the most important Japanese writer of his generation died in Tokyo at the age of 88.
Resta in Pace.
Tokyo, Shinjuku, 風花 Kazahana Bar (4)
23/3/13, birthday of my buddy and novelist SHIMADA Masahiko 島田雅彦
Mario A 亜 真里男

(1) 日本人、外人、行人。柄谷と俺 KARATANI KOJIN柄谷行人/
(2) 記憶喪失にならないように「The situation is under control」個展
(3) ドナルド・キーンと三島由紀夫、運命論の関係性
Donald Keene and Yukio Mishima, a fatalistic relationship三島由紀夫-ドナルド・キーン/
三島由紀夫のホモエロティシズム写真作品 © 細江英公
MISHIMA Yukio’s homoerotic photoworks © Eikoh Hosoe
(4) 亜 真里男「風花 wunderBAR」Mario A “KAZAHANA wunderBAR”

大江健三郎 OE Kenzaburo by Mario A
大江健三郎 OE Kenzaburo by Mario A
OE Kenzaburo 大江健三郎 by Mario A
OE Kenzaburo 大江健三郎 by Mario A
NAKAGAMI Kenji 中上健次, TSUSHIMA Yuko 津島佑子, OE Kenzaburo 大江 健三郎 by Mario A
NAKAGAMI Kenji 中上健次, TSUSHIMA Yuko 津島佑子, OE Kenzaburo 大江 健三郎 by Mario A

Read also:

Nobel-winning author, peace activist Kenzaburo Oe dies at 88
March 13, 2023 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature who was also known as a campaigner for the pacifist Constitution and against nuclear power, has died of old age, publisher Kodansha Ltd. said Monday. He was 88.

One of the most celebrated authors in Japan in the post-World War II era, Oe spearheaded a civic movement calling for eliminating nuclear plants in his late 70s in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“To repeat the error by exhibiting, through the construction of nuclear reactors, the same disrespect for human life is the worst possible betrayal of the memory of Hiroshima’s (atomic bombing) victims,” Oe wrote in an article for U.S. magazine The New Yorker, dated 10 days after the triple disaster.
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ノーベル文学賞 大江健三郎さん 死去 88歳
2023年3月13日 20時40分 訃報







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