Kenzaburō Ōe (born January 31, 1935) is a Japanese author and a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His works, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, deal with political, social and philosophical issues including nuclear weapons, nuclear power, social non-conformism and existentialism.
Ōe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994 for creating "an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today".
Ōe was born in Ōse (大瀬村 Ōse-mura?), a village now in Uchiko, Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku. He was the third son of seven children. Ōe's grandmother taught him art and oral performance. His grandmother died in 1944, and later that year, Ōe's father died in the Pacific War. Ōe's mother became his primary educator, buying him books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, whose impact Ōe says "he will carry to the grave".
Ōe remembers his elementary school teacher claiming that Emperor Hirohito was a living god, and asking him every morning, “What would you do if the emperor commanded you to die?” Ōe always replied, “I would die, sir. I would cut open my belly and die.” At home in bed at night he would acknowledge his reluctance to die and feel ashamed. After the war, he realized he had been taught lies and felt betrayed. This sense of betrayal would later appear in his writing...
Quotes by Kenzaburo Oe
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