Ibuse, Masuji

▪ 1994

      Japanese writer (b. Feb. 15, 1898, Loma, Hiroshima prefecture, Japan—d. July 10, 1993, Tokyo, Japan), was a master craftsman who painstakingly revised and polished his short stories, essays, poetry, and novels, notably the compelling Kuroi ame (1966; Black Rain, 1969; filmed 1989). The latter chronicled, in diary and documentary form, the aftereffects of the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima and especially on Yasuko, a young girl who could not marry because of her exposure to radiation. Ibuse, who initially was interested in painting, became immersed in French and Russian literature while studying at Waseda University, Tokyo. He began to write in 1918, and his first published story, Koi (1926; Carp, 1971), was followed by another fablelike tale, Sanshouo (1929; Salamander, 1966), one of his most heavily revised (first appeared in 1923 as Yuhei, "Confinement") and best-known stories. Another important work was the historical novel Jon Manjiro hyoryuki (1937; John Manjiro, the Castaway: His Life and Adventures, 1941). During World War II Ibuse was drafted into the army and served as a war correspondent in Thailand and Singapore. He achieved wider fame after the war with the publication of Honjitsu kyushin (1950; No Consultations Today, 1964; filmed 1952), a wry characterization of a town and the tragicomic doctor and his down-and-out patients who lived there. His antimilitary satire Yohai taicho (1950; A Far-Worshiping Commander, 1964) was also well received. Ibuse's self-deprecating humour coupled with his gift for satire ensured that his compassion for his characters would not lapse into sentimentality. In 1966 Ibuse received both the Noma Prize for Literature and the Order of Cultural Merit for Kuroi ame.

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