Five Wonderful Kenzaburō Ōe Quotes

· February 7, 2019
Kenzaburō Ōe is one of the most important and profound writers of the 20th century. Discover five of his best quotes here!

Many of Kenzaburō Ōe’s quotes are a reflection of his personal tragedies and the terrible things he has witnessed in his life. Kenzaburō Ōe is one of the most important and profound writers of the 20th century.

Kenzaburō Ōe was born in a small village in Japan. He came from a very humble family. His desire to make something of himself took him to Tokyo, where he got his degree in Philosophy and Literature. He suffered quite a bit of culture shock in Tokyo because his native village was very different from the huge city he found himself in. That culture shock inspired him to start writing.

Kenzaburō Ōe has a humanist soul and is witty and convincing. His quotes are short and to the point. Here some of his best-known ones!

1. Kenzaburō Ōe on fear

Kenzaburō Ōe writes a lot about fear. He believes that we shouldn’t succumb to fear, but reason with it. This wonderful writer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994, also believes in our capacity as humans to free ourselves from fear.

A flock of birds chasing a man.

One of Kenzaburō Ōe’s quotes reflects this idea. It says: “To dominate fear, you have to isolate it. To do that, you have to precisely define what the object of your fear is”. This is excellent advice. Identifying exactly what you fear is the first step to overcoming it.

2. The two faces of the world

Another Kenzaburō Ōe quote says: “When I want to look at the world with both eyes, what I perceive is two worlds, one superimposed on the other. The first is light and clear, surprisingly defined. The other is imprecise and subtly shadowed”.

This quote talks about the ambiguity of existence, including human existence. It reflects on the duality that exists in us: the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the great and the not so great. We constantly face this paradox over the course of our lives.

3. The good writer

Kenzaburō Ōe also writes a lot about writing. More than a vocation, Kenzaburō Ōe believes that writing is a position in the face of existence. It’s a testimony, a kind of therapy, and a cultural exercise at the same time.

He said: “A good writer should never settle down”. He believes that one of the things that drives a person to write is instability. Otherwise, there basically wouldn’t be any reason to imagine other possible worlds through literature.

A person working on a laptop.

4. The ghost of the atomic bomb

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings had a deep and profound effect on Kenzaburō Ōe.

Much of Kenzaburō Ōe’s writing talks about this subject. Here’s a quote on this topic: “The important lesson from the drama of Hiroshima is dignity”. Here, he talks about his people’s iron will to rebuild the nation after this terrible event.

5. The act of lying

Kenzaburō Ōe doesn’t try to teach moral lessons through his literature. He doesn’t offer any kind of advice nor guidelines on how to behave. Nevertheless, all of his novels and essays are based on moral and ethical questions.

One of his quotes says: “If you lie to get out of trouble, you should do it in such a way that you don’t have to lie again when they learn the truth”. As you can see, he isn’t condemning lying, just pointing out that it isn’t the best option. He assumes that the truth will come out at some point, so you should take that into account if you want to lie.

The mask of a liar.

Kenzaburō Ōe also had a child with an intellectual disability. After his son was born, his life changed entirely, and so did his writing. Maybe that’s why reading his work makes you feel like he’s an author who dreams of decoding the meaning of the impossible.