- Birthday, Nonfiction, Politics, Writing

“It is the second job of literature to create myth. But its first job is to destroy it.”

Happy birthday, Kenzaburō Ōe! Here are some quotes from this marvelous writer:

“I am the kind of writer who rewrites and rewrites. I am very eager to correct everything. If you look at one of my manuscripts, you can see I make many changes. So one of my main literary methods is ‘repetition with difference.’ I begin a new work by first attempting a new approach toward a work that I’ve already written—I try to fight the same opponent one more time. Then I take the resulting draft and continue to elaborate upon it, and as I do so the traces of the old work disappear. I consider my literary work to be a totality of differences within repetition.”


“We are much too tolerant of the moral aberration of statesmen and bureaucrats.”

“In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy.”

“Literature must be written from the periphery toward the center, and we can criticize the center. Our credo, our theme, or our imagination is that of the peripheral human being. The man who is in the center does not have anything to write.”


“Understanding comes hard to persons of high rank who are accustomed to phony lifestyles that involve no daily work.”

“The fundamental style of my writing has been to start from my personal matters and then to link it up with society, the state and the world.”


“As one with a peripheral, marginal, and off-centre existence in the world I would like to seek how—with what I hope is a modest decent and humanist contribution—I can be of some use in a cure and reconciliation of mankind.”

  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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