This year’s Muro Saisei Literary Prize was awarded to Ochitsukana for a novel based on his father’s life as a probation officer. The prize was the first in the author’s career.
Author Otohiko Kaga, a member of the final selection committee, highly praised the work “Chichi no Kunsho” (Father’s honour). “His father’s honest way of life really comes through in the offhand depiction of the setting,” he said.
Ochitsukana, 60, is a native of Nonoichi, Ishikawa Prefecture. After graduating from university, he started working at a regional bank in Toyama Prefecture. During the long period that he was sent overseas by the company, he felt as if he was starving for the Japanese language. As a result, he immersed himself in novels by such writers as Akira Yoshimura and Yasunari Kawabata.
“I was struck by the way that Japanese works of literature tend to leave ambiguity in their conclusions, forcing the reader to imagine them,” he said.
For 15 years, Ochitsukana has been writing at a pace of one novel every year. He has had the experience of being transferred to an affiliated company and to a new firm altogether. Characters whose lives are neither successful nor smooth often feature into his works.
The protagonist of the award-winning novel is a probation officer who carries out his duties without ever being thanked.
In the story, a former juvenile delinquent pays a visit to the officer carrying a duck dish that he has prepared. The food is a token of his gratitude to the officer.
“Hard work pays off.” That is Ochitsukana’s message not only to his father, but to himself, a man who eventually became an executive officer at the company where he was transferred.
His pen name, a play on Japanese words that refers to his scatterbrained personality, was coined by his wife.
“Even I, the writer, don’t know how the story will end,” he says. “I keep writing to find out.”