Ishii and Wakatake share Akutagawa Prize; Kadoi takes Naoki Prize

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2018/01/29 News

Ishii and Wakatake share Akutagawa Prize; Kadoi takes Naoki Prize

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature has announced the winners of the 158th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes for the first half of 2017. The Akutagawa was awarded to two novelists, Yuka Ishii for Hyakunen doro (Hundred-Year Mud, published in the November issue of Shinchō magazine) and Chisako Wakatake for Ora ore de hitori igumo (Ora, Ora Be Goin’ Alone, published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha). Yoshinobu Kadoi received the Naoki for Ginga tetsudō no chichi (Father of the Galactic Railroad, published by Kodansha). Awarded twice a year, Japan’s two top literary prizes were announced on January 16, 2018 following selection committee meetings at their traditional venue, the Shin-Kiraku restaurant in Tsukiji, Tokyo.

Yuka Ishii, 54, was born in Osaka Prefecture. She studied at the Department of Indian Philosophy and Buddhist Studies of the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo, and later became a Japanese-language teacher in Chennai, India. She won the Shinchō Prize for New Writers in 2017 for Hyakunen doro. In the story, a Japanese woman who has reluctantly moved to Chennai is caught up in a once-a-century flood that deposits layers of mud containing various objects that trigger vicarious experiences and her own memories.

Chisako Wakatake was born in 1954 in Iwate Prefecture; at age 63 she is the second-oldest recipient of the Akutagawa Prize. Ora ore de hitori igumo is her debut work and also earned her the Bungei Prize in 2017. The novel describes the travails of aging as experienced by Momoko, a 74-year-old widow who hears voices in her head speaking in the local dialect (which is that of the author’s home region in Tohoku).

Yoshinobu Kadoi was born in 1971 in Gunma Prefecture, and graduated from the Faculty of Letters at Doshisha University. He made his literary debut in 2003 by winning the All Yomimono Mystery Prize for New Writers for the short story Kiddonappāzu (Kidnappers). His first novel, Tensai-tachi no nedan (The Price of Genius), appeared in 2006. Ginga tetsudō no chichi narrates the life of the famed poet and devout Buddhist Kenji Miyazawa from the viewpoint of his father Masajirō.