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Nobel prize-winning Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe dies of old age

kenzaburo oe

Tokyo: Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe died of old age at 88. He was one of the iconic figures in Japanese literature and the winner of the Nobel prize.

He has worked on a wide range of subjects ranging from militarism and nuclear disarmament to innocence and trauma. He spoke for the marginalised and criticised what he considered to be the nation's failures. He has said his writing starts from personal matters and then links them up with society, the state, and the world.

According to The Guardian, his stories and essays were heavily influenced by the formative events in his life which included the impact of war on Japanese society and the birth of his disabled son Hikari.

Another popular writer Kazuo Ishiguro said Oe is "genuinely decent, modest, surprisingly open and honest, and very unconcerned about fame." His translator John Nathan said Oe created a language of his own.

Oe was born in Ose, a remote village in the forests of Shikoku. His grandmother and mother raised him on folktales. His father was killed in World War II. He grew up thinking that the emperor of Japan was a living god but was shocked to hear his voice at the age of 10. When Emperor Hirohito surrendered after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his beliefs were upturned. Growing up in poverty in post-war Japan, Oe is the only one of seven siblings who went to university.

Later on, he became increasingly political and emerged as a cult writer among Japan's youth that was angry at the government.

He once told The Guardian that the birth of his son Hikari trained him as a human being. The child was born with a herniated brain and doctors urged the parents to let him die. Oe says wishing for the child's death was a "disgraceful thought no powerful detergent allowed to wash out of my life." Hikari went on to become a musical prodigy and award-winning composer. Oe said he is proud that his son is more successful than him.

Even in the last decade of his life, he fought against war, nuclear power, and the revival of Japanese nationalism. He called for official compensation for wartime Korean sex slaves dubbed "comfort women". He also urged the Japanese government to reconcile with its neighbours in Asia, particularly China and Korea.

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