Kenzabur e, who gained a reputation as one of Japan’s greatest modern authors, is the second Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. His writings explore the political, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the modern world in a way that is distinctly Japanese but not without universal appeal. e often bases his novels on intimate experiences from his life, such as sexual escapades, memories of family humiliation during wartime, and the challenges of parenting a mentally disabled child.
When e began his education in the 1940’s, he was taught to believe that Emperor Hirohito was a god and that every child should be willing to sacrifice his or her life for the benefit of the emperor and Japan. After he began studying French literature at Tokyo University, e began writing stories on the themes of hope and rebirth in the face of death. His writing is a search for hope and redemption in a modern world devoid of stability and peace, and he advocates for the expansion of human rights, for political freedom, and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. e discovers hope through his intimate soul-searching and engagement with the world. Perhaps it is e’s optimism, emerging from the horrors of Japan’s destruction in World War II, including the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that gives Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! its moral authority and creative energy.
Each of the seven chapters takes its title from a line in a William Blake poem, including the lines “A Cold Babe Stands in the Furious Air” or “The Soul Descends as a Falling Star, to the Bone at my Heel” from Vala: Or, The Four Zoas (wr. 1795-1804, pb. 1963; best known as...
(The entire section is 700 words.)