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Top>People>Passion for the grandeur of Chinese history, a continuing dream


Kenzo Kitakata

Mr. Kenzo Kitakata [Profile]

Passion for the grandeur of Chinese history, a continuing dream

Mr. Kenzo Kitakata

There was an episode one could call A Request for a Manuscript (Reprint) Over the Barricades.

At the height of the student movement in the early 1970s, the editor of the literary magazine Shincho, took the trouble to come to strife-torn Chuo University, crossed the barricades and called on Mr. Kitakata for a meeting. He wanted to reprint "To a Brighter Town", published in a fanzine while Kitakata was in school. This was to be the writer's major debut, the starting point of his career.

At the time, Chuo University was still located in Surugadai, Ochanomizu. Kitakata was a 22 year old fourth year student in the law department of the Faculty of Law. "I majored in real rights granted by way of security and real rights variation, but I remember none of it now," he recalls with a laugh.

After the 13 volume History of the Three Kingdoms, he spent 6 years writing the 19 volume Heroes of the Marshes. He's developing his work in top form and will release the 12 volume sequel to Heroes, Yoreiden, at the end of January.

He has shown tremendous stamina while continuing to produce works about adventures throughout China's magnificent history.

He was awarded the 9th Shiba Ryotaro Award for Heroes in 2005. Go Oousaka comments, "A writer's true strength is determined when he consumes a true classic within himself and then spits it out again. The vigor and determination with which Kitakata pours out his work is enough to send shivers down the spines of his predecessors."

It goes without saying that his short, sharp style of writing while omitting adjectives is attractive. The same is true when he speaks with vigor.

According to Kitakata:"When people think of something as being hopeless, it is actually a sign that energy has been built up. By being patient, you accumulate your magma, and explode when you overcome the situation at hand." (September 20, 2009, Yomiuri Shimbun)

In the autumn 2006 special edition of campus magazine Hakumon Chuo, he was quoted as follows: "Looking back now (to the campus struggle days), it was purely becoming ridiculous yet it was certainly feverishly hot. Life was fervent. But I think that's what youth is about. Young people aren't meant to behave." "Hope is always something to be made. We built hope. Building hope is the privilege of youth. It is fine to have dreams. It's alright to face up to it, strive to realize that hope, fight for it, and fall to pieces over it. Then you will learn about reality and about society, and after that about your true strengths. I think that is important."

There was the time he traveled to West Africa, seeing scenes of starved corpses lying on the streets, enough to make him want to curse himself for being a writer. Then he saw a young girl weeping with big drops of tears. When he took a closer look, he saw that a female hotel worker was reading to that young girl, who was illiterate. Here is what he said about that story:

"I realized that not only do we live in flesh and blood, but we live in our hearts as well. That's when I strongly felt people need stories....Readers sometimes come to talk to me about a certain scene in Heroes of the Marshes...and at that point start to cry. Ah, this is why I continue to write." (Yurindo Culture Lecture. November 25, 2009, Asahi Shimbun)

Tonight, with his fervent heart in tow, he will be in some bar, sitting in a reserved seat at the end of the counter, tilting a glass and smoking a cigar. That would make a perfect picture. The deep, aged features of this man's sincere face reveal his personal history. This is the image that forms when I think of him.

Kenzo Kitakata
Born in 1947 in Saga Prefecture. Graduated from Chuo University in 1973. Made his debut with Funeral Bell Tolls. Won the inaugural Japan Adventure Novel Award (1983) and the 4th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers for Sleepless Nights, the 2nd Japan Adventure Novel Award (1984) for The Cage, and the Japan Mystery Writer's Association Award for Thirsty Town (1985). After gaining a reputation as a hard-boiled fiction writer, he turned to writing historical novels, winning the Shibata Rentaro Award for The Broken Army's Star (1991), the Yoshikawa Eiji Literature Prize for Yokasho (2004), and continuing with the Shiba Ryotaro Award for Heroes of the Marshes. He has been a member of the Naoki Prize selection panel since 2000.