Japan’s Waseda Univ. Awards 2 Writers Who ‘Crossed Border’ between Genres, Languages

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Natsuki Ikezawa, left, winner of the Tsubouchi Shoyo Award, and Gregory Khezrnejat, who received an honorable mention, pose for a photo at Waseda University in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 29.

Waseda University announced that this year’s Tsubouchi Shoyo Award went to writer Natsuki Ikezawa, who has written various works, including novels and poems, and has even worked on translations while living in Japan and overseas.

Gregory Khezrnejat, who was born in the United States and writes novels in Japanese, received an honorable mention.

The two were recognized as writers who have “crossed the borders” of genres and languages.

“Receiving [this award] is a surprise, but it also gives me anxiety,” Ikezawa, 78, said at a press conference on Sept. 29. “I have been thinking that I could do something else by changing the form of my works to novels, poems, translating and editing. I think I can continue to write in good health for a while longer.”

In March, Ikezawa released the historical novel “Mata auhimade” (Until we meet again). The book depicts World War II and the postwar era through the perspective of his great-uncle, who was a naval officer.

The cover of “Mata auhimade” (Until we meet again) written by Natsuki Ikezawa

“I wanted to think about the war through the lens of what we know today,” he said. “I thought I could write it like I wrote other historical novels, such as ‘Shizukana Daichi’ (The quiet land).”

Khezrnejat’s second Japanese-language novel, “Kaikonchi” (The land under cultivation), was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize last winter.

“I’m very honored,” Khezrnejat said at the press conference. “Mr. Ikezawa has a huge collection of works, so I don’t think I should sit idle.”

At the press conference, the two spoke about the connection between language and literature.

“I think the future of the Japanese language lies in the fact that another language will be incorporated into Japanese and the language will change,” Ikezawa said. “I hope [Khezrnejat] will change [the literary world] with words that are not simply smooth and beautiful like in [typical] Japanese words.”

Khezrnejat writes while being surrounded by the Persian language spoken by his Iranian father, his native language of English, as well as the Japanese he was taught in school. He said he was influenced by multiple languages and cultures and expressed his desire to “write something new from a different angle than the dichotomy of Japan versus non-Japan.”