robertogreco + memories + interdependence + individuality   1

The Essence of the Japanese Mind: Haruki Murakami and the Nobel Prize |
"In other words, Murakami began to explore how putting the needs of the group before the needs of the individual — often assumed to be an elemental tenet of Japanese society — leads to a disregard for the sacredness of human life."



"Perhaps Murakami’s greatest feat in transitioning to more serious themes from the gleeful apolitical nature of his early work is that his later fiction does not feel drastically different. All of his stories assert that reality and time are bendy and subjective; that consciousness has unseen depths and imagination untold power; and that people are lonely.

But after 1993, Murakami applies the idea of memory as a constructed narrative to historical memory and to history itself. Just as he critiques the media’s description of current events, Murakami calls into question history’s presumed superiority over literature in rendering past and present events.

Unlike the feelings of dislocation and disbelief experienced by Murakami’s characters during actual traumatic moments, many characters feel the fictional stories they’ve read or been told seem more real than reality. Human beings are constantly searching for meaning, for a coherent narrative to bind together the information they are given. History and news can provide this narrative, but fiction, according to Murakami, does it better. Why? Because fiction honors the dignity of an individual consciousness, while history and news group people together, creating the illusion that a hundred, a thousand or a million lives can be analyzed as one.

When I was living with a Japanese family in Hokkaido in 2006, my host mother looked up one day from a TV news report about a woman who had drowned her baby in a bathtub and asked me how mothers in America kill their children. Foreigners in Japan often find themselves having these conversations: In Japan we do it this one, established way. How do you do it in your country? Sometimes, this makes sense. In America, public school students don’t wear uniforms. In Japan, they do.

I would often find holes in these seemingly universal pronouncements about “how we do things.” In Japan, only babies drink milk, an older woman told me once. Weeks later, I noticed a colleague sipping the stuff during a morning meeting.

Japan likes to believe itself to be unified in spirit and behavior, impervious to foreign influence. And to a certain extent, it is. But in the 21st century, no island is an island. If Murakami ever does win the Nobel, Japan will rally in celebration behind him, all past grievances forgotten, and his vision of the country — teeming with idiosyncratic individuals who know the chorus to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” better than the details of how to perform a tea ceremony — will enter the canon.

And somewhere, Yasunari Kawabata, whose Nobel lecture discussed Zen, cherry blossoms, flower arrangement, and calligraphy, will be rolling in his grave."
harukimurakami  2013  memory  time  history  memories  fiction  literature  amandalewis  japan  subjectivity  storytelling  narrative  independence  individuality  interdependence  culture  identity 
october 2013 by robertogreco

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