“Children: A Model of the Human Future”
Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate in Literature
I wrote The Children of 200 Years
(Chuko Bunko), thinking that it would be the only fantasy novel for children that I would ever write in my life as an author. In the process, I realized that I wanted to express my ideas on human life more comprehensively than I had done in other novels.
My method was to have the characters travel through time. Three children (elder brother with a mental disability, younger sister and younger brother) go back in time and travel over a period of two hundred years that spans before and after modernization took place in Japan. Of course, the children live in the present.
While I was writing this novel, I realized what I was lacking as a novelist. Although somewhat limited, my perspective is a cultural one that comes from the humanities and social sciences, and I found myself unable to apply a biological perspective from the natural sciences. I would repeatedly dream of being able to sit in on the discussions of different experts to have the chance to learn.
Then it occurred to me to address you, the new founders of Child Science, as a novelist, as I am doing now, because I suppose it is a work habit of mine to react to situations as a student, not as a teacher. And I know that “teachers” are sometimes interested in the way “students” think.
The cultural theorist, Edward Said, was my friend and mentor for many years. He died of leukemia several years ago, but he left an indelible impression on those around him in his last years—the “optimism of the will” in spite of the increasingly difficult social environment.
As I was writing the novel, I tried to imagine the future of human beings from the children’s point of view, which also led me to the “optimism of the will.” The question is how realistically I want to take it and communicate it to people in the future. This desire is what I would like to talk about today.