Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Given that Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) is Kenzabur e’s favorite American book, how do the themes of exploration and moral courage appear in his novels?

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, e quoted the Danish philologist Kristoffer Nyrop: “Those who do not protest against war are accomplices of war.” How do e’s views about Hiroshima, nuclear disarmament, and the peace movement show up in his novels?

Describe the circumstances of the birth of e’s son, Hikari, and how his relationship with his son figures into two different works. Would e have achieved fame without Hikari’s unusual development and career?

How does e’s interest in people at the peripheries, marginal groups, and nonnative ethnic people influence the style of his fiction?

What topics in e’s novels have been most controversial in Japan, and why?

In what ways do e’s novels celebrate Japanese culture, and how do they undermine or challenge it?


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cargas, Harry James. “Fiction of Shame.” The Christian Century 112 (April 12, 1995): 382-383. Brief biographical sketch, commenting on e’s theme of guilt over Japanese attraction to Western customs and rejection of their own traditions and guilt over the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, which violates the samurai code of honor.

Napier, Susan J. Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and e Kenzabur. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. An excellent, in-depth comparative analysis of key texts by both writers. The book provides great insight into the literary imagination of these two important, yet very different, writers.

Napier, Susan J. “Marginal Arcadias: e Kenzabur’s Pastoral and Antipastoral.” Review of Japanese Culture and Society 5 (December, 1993): 48-58. An intelligent critical study of the treatment of nature in e’s works. Relates e’s often fantastic and grotesque description of rural life to the author’s childhood at the remote margins of Japanese society. Successfully analyzes e’s connection to the traditions of Western pastoralism.

e, Kenzabur. “Kenzabur e: After the Nobel, a New Direction.” Interview by Sam Staggs. Publishers Weekly 242 (August 7, 1995): 438-439. e talks about his decision to discontinue writing fiction; discusses his lifestyle and his relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre.

Remnick, David. “Reading Japan.” The New Yorker 70 (February 6, 1995): 38-44. Recounts a meeting with e, in which the writer talks about his life and art. Discusses e’s obsession with his mentally disabled son in several of...

(The entire section is 735 words.)