Noma was born in Kōbe to a devout Buddhist family, and took up literature in 1932 after meeting the poet Takeuchi Shizuo. In 1935 he enrolled at Kyoto University, where he studied French literature with a particular interest in French Symbolist poetry. He also became active in Marxist student movements.
Noma's first long novel, Shinku chitai (真空地帯 Zone of Emptiness?), was published in 1952. It has been called one of the best war novels produced after World War II. In 1971 Noma received the Tanizaki Prize for his 5-volume work Seinen no wa (青年の環?).
Selected works in translation
- Dark Pictures and Other Stories, Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, 30, University of Michigan Press, 2000, ISBN 0-939512-03-3.
- Zone of Emptiness, Cleveland & New York, The World Publishing Company, 1956, tr. Bernard Frechtman.
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