NY Times: Japanese Novelist Denounces ‘Cheap Liquor’ of Nationalism

Leave a comment

October 1, 2012 by Water Wisdom

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has called for calm in Japan's disputes with China and South Korea.Stuart Isett/Gamma for The New York TimesThe Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has called for calm in Japan’s disputes with China and South Korea. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2012/09/30/2003543996

HONG KONG — The 2012 Nobel Prize in literature will soon be announced, and oddsmakers are listing the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami as the favorite.

According to the betting firm Ladbroke’s, Mr. Murakami, 63, is the frontrunner at 5-1 odds, followed by Bob Dylan at 10-1. The Chinese novelist Mo Yan is next at 12-1, tied with the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom.

In a recent commentary in The Asahi Shimbun, Mr. Murakami spoke out about the noxious effects of nationalism, which have been inflaming the dispute between China and Japan over the contested Senkaku islands. China calls the remote and rocky islets the Diaoyu; the other claimant, Taiwan, calls them the Tiaoyutai.

“When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions,’ it creates a dangerous situation with no exit,” Mr. Murakami said, according to a translation in The Japan Times.

“It is like cheap liquor: Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely. . . But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning. We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage.”

Put another way, by the possible Nobel laureate Mr. Dylan: “Keep a clean nose / Watch the plain clothes / You don’t need a weatherman / To know which way the wind blows.”

Mr. Murakami, noted for “Kafka on the Shore,” “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” has known a little something about too much liquor and rash behavior. From his Times Topics page:

In his early 20s, instead of joining the ranks of a large corporation, Murakami grew out his hair and his beard, married against his parents’ wishes, took out a loan and opened a jazz club in Tokyo called Peter Cat. He spent nearly 10 years absorbed in the day-to-day operations of the club: sweeping up, listening to music, making sandwiches and mixing drinks deep into the night.

In his Asahi Shimbun piece, Mr. Murakami said he was “shocked” to hear that his most recent book, “1Q84,” and works by other Japanese writers have been removed from Chinese stores — part of the collateral damage over the dispute about the islands’ sovereignty.

Mr. Murakami’s work has been widely translated and is popular throughout East Asia, especially in China and South Korea.

“One of the main purposes of cultural exchanges,” he said, “is to bring about an understanding that we are all human beings who share emotions and inspirations, even if we speak different languages.”

“That is, so to speak, the path through which souls can come and go beyond national borders. You soon sober up after the buzz of cheap liquor passes. But the path for souls to come and go must not be blocked.”

Mr. Murakami, Times Topics said, has “established himself as the unofficial laureate of Japan — arguably its chief imaginative ambassador, in any medium, to the world: the primary source, for many millions of readers, of the texture and shape of his native country.”

The critic Sam Anderson visited Mr. Murakami in Japan last year andwrote about their meeting for The New York Times Magazine, right around Nobel time. And the Times Topics entry said this about Mr. Murakami’s work routine:

For 30 years now, he has lived a monkishly regimented life, each facet of which has been precisely engineered to help him produce his work. He runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing.

“1Q84” was published last autumn to a mixed reception, including a reviewby Janet Maslin in The Times that called the 925-page novel “stupefying” and “quicksand.”

Two Japanese authors have won the Nobel for literature, Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 and Kenzaburo Oe in 1994. (The only Chinese writer to have won was Gao Xingjian, the author of “Soul Mountain.” He was born in China, in Jiangxi Province, but won the prize in 2000 as a French citizen, and the Chinese government did not acknowledge Mr. Gao as a Chinese writer.)

Mr. Oe and Mr. Murakami were part of a group of Japanese intellectuals who last week issued a call for Japan to reflect again on the postwar history of the region, saying “Japan, South Korea and China are important allies and partners in building regional peace and prosperity.” (Japan is also in a dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima islands, known in Korea as the Dokdo islands.)

The group, according to a report in the South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, “stressed Tokyo’s need to build on the Murayama Statement of 1995, acknowledging and apologizing for misdeeds during Japan’s colonial rule.”

The statement was made Aug. 15, 1995, by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The statement reads, in part:

Building from our deep remorse on this occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan must eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international coordination as a responsible member of the international community and, thereby, advance the principles of peace and democracy.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 1, 2012

An earlier version of this post misstated the title of Tomiichi Murayama. He was the prime minister in August 1995, not the foreign minister.

New Straits Times: Author Haruki Murakami says nationalism over Japan-China dispute is like ‘cheap liquor’
By Adam Westlake / September 28, 2012 / 13 Comments


Internationally renown Japanese author Haruki Murakami has shared his point of view on the China-Japan territorial dispute over the Senkaku/DiaoyuIslands. As Beijing and Tokyo continue to argue at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Murakami shows he has the same feelings as the rest of us with level heads; that the nationalism spewed by politicians in nothing more than cheap liquor. The author of best-sellers Norwegian Wood, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore spoke out through an editorial in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Murakami feels that territorial disputes are an inescapable consequence of dividing humanity in countries with national borders. He says that disputes over land stop being a practical issue when they are viewed through “nationalist sentiment,’ and become dangerous situations with no exit. That national sentiment is just like cheap liquor, he explains, it gets you drunk quickly, act hysterical, say things loudly you normally wouldn’t say, and act in ways you wouldn’t normally act. And in the end you are just left with a headache and the mess you created the next morning. This “drunken hysteria” over the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea isn’t even over yet, and I think majority of both Japanese a Chinese already have headaches.

While Japan has controlled the islands for decades now, calling them the Senkaku, China has also laid claims to the territory it refers to as Diaoyu. Japan’s recent purchase of the islands from their private owners has enraged China, which feels the act is an attack on their sovereignty. Just over a week ago, China was overrun with anti-Japanese sentiment, resulting in sometimes violent protests and demonstrations involving the destruction of Japanese property and the burning of Japanese flags.

Murakami closed his argument against nationalism, and cheap liquor, by saying that politicians and critics who lavish the people with it should be avoided. A wise idea, but too bad Shinzo Abe, the most nationalist candidate, was just elected as leader of the opposing Liberal Democratic Party. Murakami has earned commercial and critical success with readers around the world, and also enjoys a strong following in Asian countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 62 other followers



%d bloggers like this: