Yōko Ogawa

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Written and spoken word (general)
Asia, Eastern
created on:
April 28, 2005
last changed on:
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Yōko Ogawa was born in the prefect of Okayama, Japan, in 1962. Shintoism, which understands all parts and aspects of reality as divine, had a strong spiritual influence on her youth. In the early 80s she studied Literature and Art at Waseda University in Tokyo. After completing her studies, she returned to Okayama where she worked at a medical university for a while. Shortly thereafter she married. At the same time she began to write.
In 1988 she received the Kaien Prize for young authors for her story ´Agehachō ga kowareru toki.´ Her ensuing works were also well received: With ´Kampekina Byōshitsu,´ ´Daibingu Puru,´ and ´Samenai Kōcha,´ she was nominated for three consecutive years for Japan’s most prestigious literature prize, the Akutagawa Prize. She then received this important award in 1991 for ´Ninshin Karenda.´

Today with her numerous novellas, short stories, essays, and novels, she is considered one of Japan’s most important contemporary authors. In Europe, Yōko Ogawa was first only read in France, where since 1995 ten of her books have appeared in translation.

Yōko Ogawa surprises her readers with a cool, minimal narrative style, which offers them all the more room to use their imaginations and make associations. Her simple sentences, the detailed descriptions, and the linear narrative style intensify into an unusual, diffuse atmosphere. The characters in Ogawa’s unsettling, mysterious worlds are reduced to just a few characteristics. The author primarily narrates from the viewpoint of a young, rather passive woman, who freely subordinates her actions and existence to the dominance of a man. This is also the case in ´Hotel Iris,´ where it is simply the dominating voice of a significantly older man that fascinates the 17-year-old Mari to such a degree that she enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with him. Ogawa’s approach is neither voyeuristic nor does she pass moral judgment - she instead focuses on a subtle account of mutual dependency.

Yōko Ogawa lives with her family in the Japanese prefect of Hyōgo.
Author: Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin (ilb)


1988 Kaien Prize for her debut "Disintegration of the Butterfly" (Agehacho ga kowareru toki)
1990 Akutagawa Prize for "Pregnancy Calendar" (Ninshin karendaa)
2004 Yomiuri Prize for "The Professor´s Beloved Equation" (Hakase no aishita sushiki, translated as The Gift of Numbers)
2004 Izumi Prize for "Burafuman no mais?"
2006 Tanizaki Prize for "Meena´s March" (M?na no k?shin)
2008 Shirley Jackson Award for "The Diving Pool"


International Festival of Literature Berlin