Kenzaburo Oe Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Art and Healing: Conversation with Kenzaburo Oe, 1994 Nobel Laureate in Literature; 4/16/99 by Harry Kreisler.
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Several of your works focus on youth; for example, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, on youth gangs where there are no values and the town has evacuated. What special role do young people have to play in shaping our ideas about the world?

In the end of my new novel, my hero is creating a new charity, not Christian, not Buddhist, but only they are doing something for the soul of him, of the asssembled young men. One day the leader reads a Bible in front of the people, the letter of Ephesians. In Ephesians there are two words: "New Man." Jesus Christ has become a New Man on the cross. We must take off the old coat of the old man. We must become the New Man. Only the New Man can do something, so you must become a New Man. My hero has no program about the future, but he believes that we must create New Man. Young men must become New Man. Old man must mediate to create New Man. That is my creed. I am always thinking about youth's role in Japan.

How should students prepare for the future? First, how to prepare to be a writer? How to prepare to have the positive influence in defining a New Man?

First, I hope young men are upright, independent. Harry Kreisler and Kenzaburo Oe

Like Bird.

Yes. Secondly I hope they have imagination. The imagination is not to accept the other's image but to create our own image and more precisely to reform the imagination which was given to us. To be upright and to have an imagination: that is enough to be a very good young man.

You say of Dr. Shigeto, "Without too much hope or too much despair, he had simply dealt with the suffering as best he could," and you go on to say, "He was truly an authentic man."

My professor was a specialist of French Humanism, and he always said to me "What is Humanism? It is to be without too much hope and also too much despair today." Not too much hope, not too much despair. That is the model type of a humanist today. That was my teacher's comment, and I said that to Mr. Shigeto, and he said, "Yes, I know that through my life."

Thank you very much for sharing your reflections with us, and for coming back to Berkeley, and I hope you return again.

Thank you.

Thank you for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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