it's been reported in literary papers or sections that an unofficial "twenty-year rule" applies to the Nobel Prize in Literature-- that is, every twenty years or so (unless it was every twenty-five years, and I'm misremembering), the Nobel Literature Prize committee "has" to award the prize to a Japanese writer. such would not be unvelieable. if I remember the WP entry on the NPL correctly, the first twenty years of the prize were entirely Sweden or Sweden-Norway specific, until the realization slowly dawned that the entire world was watching what was then the only true international prize, and a large cash bonus to boot. Japan is 10% of the world economy and possibly that percentage of major world literature in sales, and perhaps more importantly to the publishing world at large, it highly respects copyright and will even invest in projects requiring half of all royalties be sent abroad.
the first big postwar duel apparently erupted between YASUNARI KAWABATA (the master of elegiac, short little pieces capturing Japanese uniqueness and intricate social minueting) and his protégée YUKIO MISHIMA (who wrote longer, more ambitious plot-filled novels about grief and longing). literary scholars, after decades of scholarship on both, probabliy feel the Prize was mis-awarded-- MISHIMA, despite his vainglorious death, is more highly referenced and influential; more writers fifty years on list him as "influence," whereas Kawabata, while known to the entire community, is more the origami-expert of the intricate fold.
today of course the central Nobel story is HARUKI MURAKAMI vs. HARUKI MURAKAMI. as in, will the Nobel Prize award the medal to HM or will it fail to act in time. no other name is seriously floated in contention.
the 1980s battle is interesting on a different level. both KENZABURO OE (the eventual winner) and ENDO SHUSAKU are a bit less read today and considered a step down from the KAWABATA-MISHIMA showdown. OE represented secular sociality and ENDO heretical Christianity. but aside from this issue, there is the overall sense of aesthetics in each's work, and of course the philosophy.
this is a book about five Japanese pilgrims to the Ganges and the "case" of each, describing the spiritual concerns and life events that bring them all to India for a brief trip. it begins "on the airplane" and then explores the background and history of each.
endo's other work I've read although a 3/5 non-fiction/fiction piece (literary analysis and just literature), always inspires rounds of conversation in artistic dinners.
this work is more just a very solid 5/5 lit work