Updated: 2013-07-30 08:11
Kenzaburo Oe has long been interested in Chinese literature and has strong ties to the country.
He is a longtime friend of China's Nobel laureate Mo Yan.
Oe even spoke of Mo Yan when he accepted his Nobel Prize in Stockholm in 1994, calling Mo Yan a deserving winner. Mo Yan won the prize 18 years later.
According to Oe's translator, Xu Jinlong, when Mo Yan read the draft of Oe's most recent book Sui Shi before it was published, he told Oe he should change the ending.
Oe eventually changed the ending, but not in the way Mo Yan suggested.
"He left an open ending for the readers to interpret," Xu says.
Oe's interest in and understanding of Chinese literature started at an early age.
As a schoolboy he received a copy of Lu Xun's short stories in Japanese from his mother and was charmed by them. Xu says Oe often refers to Lu Xun and his works in personal conversations.
"Lu Xun's works have been accompanying me my whole life," Oe said when he visited China.
Oe first visited China in 1960. At the age of 25, he met some of the country's top leaders.
In 2000, he gave his first public speech in China, demonstrating great concern for the future of people in China and Japan. He talked about hope in the midst of despair in another public speech in Beijing in 2006.
Oe has a wide readership in China.
Chen Lingling from the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences says she gave Oe's books as gift to a friend who had been recently diagnosed with cancer. She said her friend got enormous comfort from Oe's writing.
Chen believes studying Oe can offer impetus to understand and develop China for the better.
"It's really moving to see how Oe views and criticizes problems, and how he refuses a peaceful and easy life in his twilight years," Chen says.
Established Chinese writers have great respect for Oe's writing.
Yan Lianke praises Oe for "being like a library".
Xu Zechen believes Oe's novels, being carefully structured, provide nutrition to contemporary Chinese writers.
- Mei Jia
(China Daily 07/30/2013 page19)