Celebrated writer Kenzaburo Oe, whose death earlier this month was reported Monday, lived for his causes.

As a public figure, Oe leaves behind a legacy of political confrontation. He was an activist, an ardent pacifist, “an anarchist who love(d) democracy” and a fierce opponent of nuclear energy. For readers of his fiction, however, it is perhaps the searching confusion of parenthood that resounds most strongly.

Oe’s son Hikari, one of three children, was born in 1963 with a brain hernia, and the operation that followed left him developmentally challenged.