Murata and Ogiwara win Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes

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2016/09/15 News

Murata and Ogiwara win Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature has announced the winners of the 155th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes for the first half of 2016. The Akutagawa went to Sayaka Murata for her novella Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Woman, published by Bungeishunju), while Hiroshi Ogiwara received the Naoki for his short story collection Umi no mieru rihatsuten (The Barbershop by the Sea, published by Shueisha).

The prizes, which are awarded twice a year, were announced on July 19 following selection committee meetings held at their traditional location, the Shin-Kiraku restaurant in Tsukiji, Tokyo.

Murata won the Akutagawa Prize on her first nomination. With the Mishima Yukio Prize and the Noma Prize for New Writers already under her belt, she has now received Japan’s top three literary awards. Murata made her literary debut with Junyū (Breast-Feeding), a short story that received a merit award in the Gunzō Prize for New Writers in 2003. Her novella Gin iro no uta (Silver Song) won the Noma Prize in 2009, and her novel Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City) took the Mishima Prize in 2013.

Konbini ningen is the tale of a 36-year-old single woman who has worked at the same convenience store for 18 years. A social misfit throughout childhood and high school, she finds her niche working at this nondescript part-time job. Murata displays a unique wit in her observations of the gap between her protagonist and the expectations of society that she flouts.

Ogiwara, who beat out a roster of veteran writers to win the Naoki Prize on his fifth nomination, worked at an ad agency and as a freelance copywriter before taking the 1997 Shōsetsu Subaru New Writers’ Award for his first novel, Ororo batake de tsukamaete (Catcher in the Ororo). His novel Ashita no kioku (Tomorrow’s Memory) received the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize in 2005, and another novel, Ni-sen nana-hyaku no natsu to fuyu (2,700 Summers and Winters), was awarded the Yamada Fūtarō Prize in 2014.

Umi no mieru rihatsuten is a collection of stories on the theme of families and the passage of time. Ogiwara brings a sympathetic touch to his portrayals of families dealing with dire circumstances, among them a father who committed a crime and his son, and a couple who lost their daughter when she was hit by a drunk driver.