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Thomas Hounds
Aug 11 2015, 07:25 PM

I'm still unsure how Haruki Murakami returns to the list year after year. The thing is, his works are translated first into English where publishers take huge liberties to make large cuts to the text, remove endings, remove entire pages of stuff they deem unneeded in order to streamline him (just read up on it, there have been some good articles about how Murakami in the West is largely the product of some heavy handed editing and rewriting on the part of a few ambitious and well-connected translators and writers), and then in Europe he is either read in English, or in translations made from the English editions. The thing is, Murakami is not particularly highly regarded in Japan; he's sort of more of a pop novelist here, but even at a popular level opinions are sharply divided and among the intelligentsia Murakami is not highly regarded. For a number of reasons. He uses very little kanji and only a basic level of kanji at that, which means he fails at one of the basic dimensions present in Japanese writing, in terms of style. I continually here from well-read Japanese people that Murakami's style is sort of ordinary, nothing very special, and not exactly innovative. Then there's the added critique that Murakami has this big role as international bestseller and popular novelist and is yet highly apolitial in his writing and in his public life, especially compared to the staunch moral activism of say, Kenzaburo Oe (who has an incredibly distinctive style that almost destroys traditional Japanese language use with its bluntness and complexity). It's fairly common to see Murakami not even make top 5 list of best living Japanese authors in rankings made by other Japanese authors or critics. In fact, this is an insight of mine that has only been confirmed several times since I've come to Japan, "Oe, what he does, is genius, he is genius" and "Murakami, he is notvery important." Japanese readers are far more likely to admire Kinkakuji by Mishima, or Kobo Abe or Oe, or even the other Murakami, Ryu Murakami who wrote Coin Locker Babies and other brutal works of fiction challenging moral consensuses and tackling contemporary issues in Japan. I haven't read some of Haruki's most praised works like Kafka on the Shore, but I wasn't impressed with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (and how much of Murakami I was reading versus U.S. editors, I am not sure on, one translator said, and I'm not exactly sure because he was speaking Japanese at the time, that over 100 pages was cut from the Japanese version to the English version).

But I'm glad to see it's Nobel season again. It reminds me of old times.
Murakami and Oe have quite the spat. The former seems similar to Joël Dicker and his La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert. A large majority of people believe that complex books are not pleasurable, are boring, and are not worth the effort, so when an "easy" writer gets heaped with accolades, many are comfortable with singing the panegyrics, finally feeling they can express their opinions with the prestige to lambast the naysayers. I remember checking out a book of Murakami's in Japanese, and the librarian, who spoke Japanese, immediately gushed about him and said how great Murakami is for getting people to love Japan and its language. I had to confess that I much preferred Oe's oeuvre, but I wanted to give Murakami a third chance. "Much too intellectual. A French poser." Ouch. I suppose Murakami's hatred for Oe infects his fans, as well.

Though, I have to point out that Murakami's lack of Kanji isn't an inherent failure. Writing a novel entirely in Hiragana and Katakana can be absolutely luminous, very beguiling, and magnificently recondite (since you're not sure which word is really being used). Have you looked into abさんご ?


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The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture anime dealt with a group of college students who created a club dedicated to the discussion of cartoons, video games, comic books and other modern visual cultural artifacts.

In the show's second season, titled Genshiken Nidaime, this one character, who graduated from college and became a hard working salaryman, notices that the comic book convention, Comiket, begins the next day. Harunobu Madarame then realizes that he doesn't care anymore about something that had obsessed him in the past: work's daily grind has sapped his soul away.


Feeling similarly. When you already have a diuturnal backlog of books you want to get to, you feel less and less inclined to join with Nobel guidance. Quite fascinating to see how unactive this thread is compared to the one over at World Literature and how that forum had been disused for months before its creation.
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Nobel Prize 2015 · General discussion