Kenzabur e was born on January 31, 1935, in a small village on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. The third son of seven children, he was only six when World War II erupted; he lost his father. e was ten when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic attack as the war ended. He entered prestigious Tokyo University in 1954, studying French literature, and burst upon the literary scene while still a student there, publishing a short story, “Shisa no ogori” (“Lavish the Dead”), in the magazine Bungakukai in 1957. It attracted attention, and his talent was widely recognized when he received the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1958 for “The Catch,” which draws upon his experience as a boy in a remote rural village during World War II.
After his graduation, e married Itami Yukari, the daughter of screenwriter Itami Mansaku, in February, 1960. In May of that year he was a member of the Japan-China Literary Delegation, which met with Mao Zedong. The next year he traveled in the former Soviet Union and Western Europe, where he met Jean-Paul Sartre.
Drawing upon his childhood, e dealt in his early works with alienation and those on the fringes of society, as well as political issues, contemporary society, and sexual mores. In the summer of 1963, however, his first son was born with serious brain damage, leading him to a new stage in his writing, in which he affirmed hope arising from despair. In five works...
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