Haruki Murakami and the Nobel Prize in Literature

Nobel prize: Chronicle of wound-up ‘Harukists’ as Murakami fails to win

This piece is in reaction to the article above from BBC and regarding the recent announcement of the awardee for Nobel Prize in Literature.

So, Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, also hasn’t been awarded or recognized by the Nobel Prize (in Literature)), same as Haruki Murakami.

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Photo by The New Yorker

I don’t know much about Margaret Atwood nor about the new Nobel Prize in Literature awardee, Kazuo Ishiguro, because I’ve never read any of their works, which goes to say that I can never really assess anything. I do know Ishiguro by his name, specifically from his novel, “Never Let Me Go.”  I’m sure they’re both deserving in their own particular ways, especially in reference to Ishiguro, who’s the latest to win the Prize.

When I read the other day that Ishiguro’s been awarded the Prize; definitely, I thought of Haruki Murakami and how there’s bound to be news all over the internet again about how the coveted prize has eluded him for the nth time and how Harukists all over the world are disappointed yet again.

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Photo from RAPTIS RARE BOOKS

As for me, being a proud and dedicated Haruki Murakami fan, of course, it’s inevitable that I’m saddened too because he’s very much deserving of this Prize as well, just as much as Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Cormac McCarthy; names as mentioned by Ishiguro himself.

“Part of me feels like an imposter and part of me feels bad that I’ve got this before other living writers. “Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, all of them immediately came into my head and I just thought wow, this is a bit of a cheek for me to have been given this before them,” says Ishiguro.

I may be accused of being bias by other people who may not have read Murakami but I don’t go this way. I don’t make assessments on whether I love or strongly dislike certain things – novels that I read, movies that I watch, and music that I listen to; by basing on just a single reason of being a fan. I have instances that even though I really love this actor, I have this sense that I don’t really like this film of his because there’s something lacking that I’m looking for.

Then again, Mr. Haruki Murakami himself doesn’t seem to care much about winning or winning it at all. He’s just not the kind of individual that’s motivated or driven by awards and such. He’s not doing what he’s doing just because he wants these recognitions. I think it’s the fans who are more driven and want the Prize for him (of course, I want the Prize for him) more than Mr. Murakami himself.

The Nobel Prize and the Oscars

However, I also feel that the Nobel Prize is just like the Oscars in some ways. The Oscars go a lot with hype more than the quality, strength, and the lasting impact of the performance and the role.

I heard that the Academy Awards’ panel of judges don’t even watch all of the films nominated, so they base more on the buzz that’s going around these films, which is why production studios are giving it a lot when it comes to marketing and publicity. And there are those that are intentionally out to win awards more than anything, even more than box office returns.

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Ryan Gosling as jazz musician, Sebastian in La La Land

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Emma Stone as aspiring actress Mia in La La Land

This is the reason why I’m not happy with Emma Stone winning over other stronger performances. As much as I love La La Land, I just feel that either Isabelle Huppert or Ruth Negga should have won. Same with Ryan, his role Sebastian is a lot more complex than Emma’s emotional cry baby Mia but the judges just love emotional acting and characters like that which are kinda typical already for me.

I strongly feel this is the same case with the Nobel Prize in Literature (since I don’t really know much with the other categories and their controversies). I guess they have this preference over English-language authors than authors writing in their native language like Japanese that must be translated first before it gets published internationally.

Foreign languages have their exquisitely-innate hidden beauty, that when they’re translated, they have more depth and meaning and evoke more emotions and intensity in readers than the original English written ones. It’s just like how there’s such a different feeling to listening to non-English songs.

The preference on social realism 

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I discussed with my older brother, who has read Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and he thinks that the Nobel committee prefers authors who write about social realism, just as also the case with Gael Garcia Marquez’ novel, “100 Years of Solitude”, who has already been awarded by the Nobel Prize.

Social realism or in simpler definition, is something that can easily relate to the real world and real life; and these are the kinds that win the Literature Prize.

And that while Never Let Me Go’s story is science fiction, it uses that scenario to get its message across, which is about clones that are made only to be organ donors to the original.

With Haruki Murakami, his style is made of weird, surreal, out of this world themes, which probably come across as escapism to the committee. I do agree with my brother on this, and these are also the reasons why I read his novels, why I’m such a fan.

And when he said social realism, I said Murakami has that too, although not very often in most of his novels. I gave “Norwegian Wood” (1997 / 2000), “South of the Border (1992 / 2006), and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” (2013 / 2014) as examples. I further said that to me, character-wise and story-wise, Norwegian Wood and Colorless Tsukuru are somewhat close to each other.

However, for him, there’s still something weird and unusual about Tsukuru, and he thinks that Norwegian Wood is the only novel that’s different from the rest of Murakami’s novels. Well, I kinda agree again, when comparing Toru and Tsukuru, Toru does come out more of a real-life person than Tsukuru, but I think this is also the reason why Tsukuru Tazaki is able to supplant Toru Watanabe as my favorite Murakami character and my no. 1 favorite Murakami novel now. I relate to both of them highly but I think I have more affinity with Tsukuru.

Then he pointed out Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) as an example of novels that also win the Nobel Literature Prize.

With this aspect, then my theory about the similarity of The Academy Awards and The Nobel Prize is further confirmed — “Moonlight” that’s about racism, coming-of-age, LGBT, and bullying, winning best picture over “La La Land” or Casey Affleck’s dramatic grief-stricken man who suddenly becomes the guardian of his nephew in “Manchester by the Sea” over Ryan Gosling’s inspiring and logical jazz musician who learned how to compromise for both his dream and love in “La La Land.”

 

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