Rarely has an author been more viscerally of his time. Through his literary career and through the struggles he waged, Kenzaburo Oé was an incarnation of the intellectual history of post-war Japan in its hopes as well as its disappointments. The writer is dead “of old age in the early hours of March 3”announced Monday, March 13 the Kodansha publishing house.
He was first a faithful man. Faithful in friendship and faithful to itself: to the values and ideas (democracy, pacifism) on which Japan was founded after the defeat of 1945.
Lucid and discreet, he remained an indignant and irreverent watcher with regard to “truths” and the day. Sometimes, Don Quixote moved by his stubbornness in defending causes blunted by the times, he was inhabited by a humanism which endeavored to neutralize the venom of oblivion. “ The only, the real question posed today as yesterday to the intellectual is that of human suffering “, he told us during one of our many meetings. His deep empathy for the weak, the victims, the discriminated against and the forgotten made him a dissonant, if not dissenting, voice in a Japan of soft consensus at the turn of the century.
He always entertained at his house in a residential area west of Tokyo. To access his office, you had to slip through a maze of bookcases, climb a narrow staircase also lined with books, then follow a cramped corridor whose walls were also cramped to reach a small cabinet where, again, the shelves were laden with neatly aligned books. Two armchairs and a coffee table, a sofa and a small desk: everything was perfectly in order. Through the window, you could see the cherry tree in this little girl’s garden. A retreat space. Kenzaburo Oé most often worked in the living room on the ground floor, the window of which also opened onto the garden. At his side, his son Hikari, mentally handicapped, played the piano or listened to music. Oé was writing on a desk placed on his knees.
Big round glasses, white hair in brush, Oé, whose photographs often gave a melancholy image, was warm and laughing. A wonderful storyteller, he spoke quickly. The conversation progressed through digressions, backtracking, reading passages from a book. The next day, details arrived by fax (he did not use the Internet) written by hand: ideograms sometimes difficult to decipher alternated with English or French words.
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