Female blogger scoops top literature prize

Japanese writer shows how online and print can co-exist

After around a decade of mass-market blogging, online auteurs have been responsible for plenty of physical novels published once they made the breakthrough online by themselves, but Japan has just lauded the first to win a major literary prize from such modern origins.

The ultra-prestigious Akutagawa Award given to new writers has been awarded this year to Mieko Kawakami, a 31-year-old full-time singer who started blogging about her experiences in 2003.

Mainstream novels

Kawakami’s musings on the place of women in society and sexuality (a common theme for female writers there) quickly snowballed into two novels that were picked up by a mainstream publisher.

The second of these, Chichi to Ran, landed her not just the prize but also the disapproval of some of the stuffier literary bigwigs in Japan.

Stick in the mud

Chief among them was Tokyo’s city governor, Shintaro Ishihara, a 1955 winner of the Akutagawa himself. Underling just how out of touch he is with the modern world, Ishihara decried Kawakami’s work as being “self-absorbed” and “rambling.”

Considering that Ishihara is a notorious right-winger well known for racist and sexist diatribes, we’d say Kawakami and her blog fans are probably the ones with their fingers on the pulse, not to mention a bright literary future.

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