Shohei Ooka Edit Profile
Raised to study literature from early childhood, he mastered French while in high school. His parents also hired the famed literary critic Kobayashi Hideo to be his tutor. Under Kobayashi's instruction, be became acquainted with poet Nakahara Chūya, the critic Kawakami Tetsutaro, and other literary figures. He entered Kyoto Imperial University School of Literature in April 1929, graduating in March 1932.
After graduation, Ooka became a journalist with the Kokumin Shimbun, a pro-government newspaper, but quit after one year to devote himself to the study and translate the works of the French writer, Stendhal, and other European writers into Japanese. To support himself, he found a job in 1938 with Teikoku Sanso, Franco-Japanese company based in Kobe as a translator. In June 1943, he left Teikoku Sanso, and in November of the same year obtained a position at Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
However, in 1944, Ooka was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army, given only three months of rudimentary training and sent to the front line at Mindoro Island in the Philippines, where he served as his battalion's communications technician until his battalion was routed and numerous men killed. In January 1945, he was captured by the American forces in the Philippine defeat and sent to a prisoner of war camp on Leyte Island. Survival was very traumatic for Ooka, who was troubled that he, a middle-aged and unworthy soldier, had survived when so many others had not. He returned to Japan at the end of the year and lived at Akashi, Hyogo.
It was not until his repatriation after the war's end that Ōoka began his career as a writer. On the recommendation of his French tutor and mentor Hideo Kobayashi, he published an autobiographical short-story of his experiences as a prisoner of war entitled Furyoki in three separate parts between 1948 and 1951. Its publication, along with winning the Yokomitsu Prize in 1949, encouraged him to take up writing as a career.
His next work, Musashino Fujin is a psychological novel patterned after the works of Stendhal.
His best-known novel, Nobi was also well received by critics, and won the prestigious Yomiuri Literary Prize in 1951.
In 1958, Ooka veered from his usual subjects and produced Kaei depicting an aging naive nightclub hostess’s struggle and ultimate demise from the destructive forces of desire and wealth in the decadent 1950s Ginza. Kaei won both the Mainichi Cultural Award and the Shinchosha Literary Prize in 1961.
Along with translations and fiction, Ooka also devoted himself to writing the critical biographies of Nakahara Chuya and Tominaga Taro. From 1953 to 1954, he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Yale University. He was also a lecturer on French literature at Meiji University in Tokyo.
Ooka became a member of the Japan Art Academy in November 1971. In January 1974, he published a biography on the poet, Nakahara Chuya, which won the Noma Literary Prize. Ooka was awarded the prestigious Asahi Prize in January 1976. He was awarded the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in March 1978.
Ooka died in 1988 at the age of 79. He was posthumously awarded the Yomiuri Literary Award in 1989 for a biography of Natsume Soseki.
April, 1929 - April, 1932Kyoto Imperial University , School of Literature
1953 - 1954