The Japan News/Asia News Network
Yasunari Kawabata speaks with reporters at his home in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, after being notified about winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968. (The Japan News/File)
Yasunari Kawabata (see below), who became the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was first nominated as a final candidate for the prize in 1966, according to documents about the selection, which were disclosed by the Swedish Academy on Monday.
The Japanese novelist was among the final candidates in that year. After that, evaluations of Kawabata’s works gradually rose.
In 1968, two years after his first nomination, Kawabata won the literature prize.
According to the documents, which The Yomiuri Shimbun requested the academy disclose, 72 people were initially selected as candidates in 1966.
Among them, Kawabata and Junzaburo Nishiwaki, a poet, were picked as Japanese candidates.
Later, the candidates were narrowed down to six, which included Kawabata. Then the selectors of the prize held detailed discussions on five of the candidates.
At that time, the selectors admitted there was a limit in evaluating Kawabata’s works because only his works translated into other languages could be read by the selectors.
But they highly evaluated Kawabata, saying his works describe Japanese lifestyles and express an ethical and aesthetic cultural awareness through the characters that appear in them.
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Also, Sei Ito, a Japanese novelist, sent the academy a letter of opinion giving detailed information about Kawabata’s career and works of literature.
Concerning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Junichiro Tanizaki was among the final candidates in 1960 and 1964, and Yukio Mishima was among the final candidates in 1963.
But Tanizaki died in 1965. In the selection for that year, the academy judged that after Tanizaki’s death, Kawabata was the writer likeliest to become a Japanese candidate. Thus, the academy judged it necessary to further examine Kawabata.
Selection documents for the Nobel Prize in Literature are disclosed after 50 years.
Born in 1899, Kawabata graduated from the then Tokyo Imperial University. When he was young, he attracted attention as a novelist in the Shinkankakuha (new impressions) literary group, and gradually deepened his knowledge about the beauty particular to Japan. His outstanding works include “Izu no Odoriko” (Izu dancer), “Yukiguni” (Snow Country) and “Koto” (The Old Capital). He killed himself by inhaling gas in 1972.