by Haruki Murakami
2011 / 954 pages
Audio & Kindle – 9.5
I realize that I made NOTES on this book and I posted them and I included the book in my monthly reads for November but I didn’t get into some rather important stuff – like themes of Murakami’s oeuvre!
First – Haruki Murkami’a acceptance speech for the Jerusalem Prize (thematic – not a particular book) in 1999:
** a snip** "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.
"This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplac- eable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically."
There are lots of folks interested in Murkami right now – Wild Sheep Chase is pretty political as is Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – both are fiercely anti-war, anti-imperialism, anti-big government and pro-small quiet person. I’m not sure how 1Q84 fits yet except that it seems like a further exploration of those themes – very anti-System in many aspects – maybe anti-“religion” this time, too – any cults, really.
Second – You know how some writers sometimes work with the “grotesque,” especially true of Southern writers but others, too. Grotesque characters evoke both empathy and disgust – it shows them, as well as ourselves and others, in a slightly ugly way. We recognize the characters as very flawed but ultimately quite human – they’re usually neither evil nor monsters.
Well – Murakami does the same thing only we see the ultimate inner beauty of the characters – a spiritual essence – and we empathize with that. Even the Leader and Mr. Ushikawa are provided with this “beautesque” (if I may coin a word) aspect. Only Pony Tail and Buzz Cut are not and they are very stereotyped and their names are totally phony.
And related to that, maybe, is Murakami’s fascination with the fantastical. What makes parts of his work so unique and fascinating for me is the complete interweaving of the fantastical with the mundane.