In life, we sometimes come across situations that are interesting for reasons we can't quite put our finger on.

Such was a May 16 news conference held by Shigehiko Hasumi, this year's recipient of the Mishima Yukio Prize.

Detailed coverage of the news conference, which I read in the digital edition of The Asahi Shimbun, quoted Hasumi as saying, "I am not delighted at all (about winning the prize). I am actually quite annoyed."

This literary prize is awarded to up-and-coming novelists, but Hasumi is 80 years old. He is well known as a critic. But since his award-winning novel was just his third, it appears he was considered an "up-and-comer."

"I consider this an extremely lamentable thing for Japanese culture," Hasumi said about being selected for the award at his age.

One reporter asked him why he didn't decline the prize if he was so ticked off by it. Hasumi responded, "I am not answering your question."

On such a joyous occasion, the interviewee is usually asked how they are feeling. But Hasumi essentially dismissed the custom as sheer nonsense that he wanted no part of.

His refusal to be amiable may have been childish, but it also came across as refreshingly honest.

Perhaps that was because his gruff contrariness went right against society's expectation nowadays for everyone to express themselves in ways that anyone can easily understand.

Bookstore shelves are loaded with easy-to-read volumes. In the workplace, superiors are expected to explain everything to their subordinates.

Hasumi could not be further from any of that.

His critical writings, which cover many fields ranging from literature to films and sports, are hardly readable.

Having tried to comprehend some of his works, I have concluded that he is preaching against adopting any tawdry "narrative."

In one of his books, for example, he states that no narrative about sports should be cheapened into a "success story."

I wonder if his ill-humored responses during the news conference represented his aversion to letting anyone make up an easy-to-understand narrative about his winning the literary prize.

But if I were to offer this conjecture, Hasumi may well tell me off.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 18

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.