When Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature, chose to become a writer rather than a teacher or literary scholar, his mentor at Tokyo University told him that it would be necessary for him to continue his studies on his own.

Oe took his mentor’s advice: “I have two cycles,” he explained in a Paris Review interview, “a five-year rotation, which centers on a specific writer or thinker; and a three-year rotation on a particular theme. I have been doing that since I was 25. I have had more than a dozen of the three-year periods. When I am working on a single theme, I often spend from morning to evening reading. I read everything written by that writer and all of the scholarship on that writer’s work.”

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