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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When something can never be rom-com

What ‘Last Night’ gets wrong about suicide

I saw the trailer to this and I find it bleh. I didn’t get anything out of the trailer of what it’s exactly about, at least, and I see Piolo and Toni looking at each other at a balcony of a nice-looking building or a hotel, all cutesy and lovey dovey. So this alone reduced the possibility of me ever watching it to total zero. However, I’d like to point it’s easy on the eyes, it’s nice to look at but that’s all there is to me.

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And then I read this review from CNN Phils (link above), which is a very well-written review, such an in-depth take, and so I find out that it’s about suicide — only this movie makes suicide such a trivial matter; that it’s a fun game while the “one-dimensional characters” are trying to think of horrendous ways of killing themselves and laughing it off every time they fail; that suicide can be a platform for tender moments, romance and falling in love; that one can be driven to suicide all because of a single event in the form of a break-up; that the decision to commit suicide is instantaneous; that this feeling of positivism and wanting to live again is also instantaneous for suicidal people (as if you just bumped your head lightly); and that after a failed attempt, one recovers so easily (with no serious after-thought or trauma of what was done).

It’s the kind of the film that I don’t even have to watch to know how it goes and how it ends. Besides, the review is highly detailed already. I can easily picture the scenes in my head while reading the review. I can’t blame the review for being spoiler-filled because she has to clearly point out the examples. It’s needed. After all, with or without spoilers, it’s the kind of film that’s ultimately predictable.

From the review alone, it already makes me think that it gives off the wrong message about suicide. Instead of making audiences have deeper understanding of suicidal people and mental issues, it encourages the idea that it’s fun to think of ways to kill yourself and that you can think of many creative ideas to do it, and that maybe in the process of trying to commit suicide, suddenly there’s a Romeo that’s out to save you and then, what else, of course they fall in love.

A college friend of mine (who watched the film) commented that it’s Carmina (Toni Gonzaga) who ended up saving Mark (Piolo), convincing him that life is worth living, but this doesn’t erase the fact that Mark still saved Carmina from that failed suicide attempt by the bridge (an example of a Romeo out to save a girl in the process of a suicide attempt).

My friend adds that “it doesn’t really encourage suicide but the message is that life is worth living.” Let’s say that’s the aim of the movie but by approaching the sensitive subject of suicide lightly and making it an avenue of fun, cutesy, and flirty interactions between the characters absolutely supplants that very message.

And then there’s this line. Mark tells Carmina, “Ayaw mo talagang magpakamatay. Nagpapapansin ka lang.”

If you’re an individual, whether or not you know someone who once tried to commit suicide or encountered it yourself, at least one should have an understanding that this very dialogue is so wrong. It’s because suicide should be taken seriously and not like a joke, like someone’s just acting all “papansin” (attention-seeking) and that he/she is not really going to do it even when they already showed signs and openly talked about suicidal thoughts.

Depression and suicide and others in anime and manga

The review cites “The Hours” and “Little Miss Sunshine” as good examples of films with the context of suicide and depression. As for me, I think of Ichigo Takano’s manga/anime series, “Orange” and Reiko Yoshida’s manga/anime film, “A Silent Voice” (Koe no Katachi), both of which are highly-acclaimed hits for their wonderfully-deep and well thought-out telling of depression, suicide, guilt, regrets, forgiveness, of past and present, bullying, redemption, friendship, second chances, and disability.

All these have become my anime favorites because they make me realize about so many things that matter. With Orange, I empathize so much to the main character, Kakeru and his strong sense of guilt for what happened to his mother and for Koe no Katachi, to Shouko, who is deaf and gets ostracized for being different and Shouya, for realizing the deep consequences of what he’s done to Shouko when they were kids.

Orange has love story in it but it isn’t the main focus, it’s a subplot; same goes with Koe no Katachi, the romance here doesn’t even come to light directly and is only implied.

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Another great example is also Makoto Shinkai’s definitive work, “5 Centimeters per Second” (2007) that astoundingly exemplifies the complexities and frailties of human connections and how these affect and change someone drastically, to the point of not seeing any sense in life anymore.

The same themes in literary fiction

In literary fiction, I can think of my top two favorite Haruki Murakami novels: “Norwegian Wood” (1987) and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” (2014) as the books that gave me insight into depression and suicide and the tremendous trauma that affects the people who are left behind.

There are some subjects that you cannot make out to be humorous, fun, or romantic, and this is one example of that subject. It makes me wonder why do they always try to inject romance in everything. Makes me wonder if they’re trying to mimic the hype of “13 Reasons Why”, the novel-turned-Netflix series (which I will never see or read), only difference is this is rom-com. Makes me wonder why it always has to be cutesy.

* My own perspective is mine alone. It doesn’t apply to everyone.*

Norwegian Wood: A letter to Toru

When I saw this nicely illustrated letter some days ago on Pinterest, it instantly made me want to browse through the pages of “Norwegian Wood”, more so because this is a part from Midori.

It’s been years since I decided to pick up Norwegian Wood and read it despite initially looking for Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the one recommended by a classmate from college. I didn’t find Wind-Up Bird at A Different Bookstore at Greenhills and that’s how I ended up discovering Norwegian Wood and falling in love with it. This book is also why I adore the name Midori.

I got the Vintage International, September 2000 edition, so it’s like five or six years later, maybe 2005 or 2006 when I read it. Amazingly, the pages are still intact but of course, it has shown its years with its now dark brown pages and its woody scent.

And since then, it’s always been one of my most favorite novels and my top Murakami book, until “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” came along in 2014 (read in 2015) and dethroned it from its number one spot.

 

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From the start, I’ve always rooted for Midori for Toru in this story. And this letter of Midori to Toru from page 252 is one testament of how much I love this character.

These following parts of this letter simply make my literary heart aflutter.

“I would have been able to forgive you for being sunk in a million thoughts.”

“Go ahead and think away to your heart’s content.”

“You’re all locked up in that little world of yours, and when I try knocking on the door, you just sort of look up for a second and go right back inside.”

“But you’re about as sensitive as a steel plate.”

38th MIBF: My Japanese book haul

20170918_031742My MIBF2017 book haul. Who wouldn’t be happy; five books, each for 20% less.

If only I can get paid reading books, then I’ll have all the joy in the world.

I don’t really buy this much. I only buy one or two the most but a good-natured person 🤗☺️loaned me some money so I got to buy this much so I’m not buying any until I get to pay these five books.

 More of my fascination on Japanese literature 

Discovering and exploring other Japanese authors — Yoko Ogawa and Hiromi Kawakami. These authors I think aren’t even available at National.

“Subtle, graceful, wise and threaded on a quirky humor, this exploration of the connections and disconnections between people kept me smiling long after the last page.” – Julia Rochester’s review of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop.

However, I think the plot summary ultimately got me. It says “Among the jumble of paperweights, plates, typewiters, and general bric-a-brac in Mr. Nakano’s thrift store, there are treasures to be found.”

Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop is somewhat familiar as I’ve seen it on Kinokuniya SG Webstore but I didn’t click on it, so I still don’t know up until today what it is about. I also haven’t read any of her works before so entirely, she’s new to me.

“Gorgeous, cinematic… This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe, and the whimsy of Murakami.” – Los Angeles Times review of Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor.

After reading this review and the plot summary saying “An enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family” at the back of the cover, I knew it’s a shoo-in for me. I love the cover too.

Yoko Ogawa is also entirely new to me and I totally discovered her and this book at the Fully Booked booth, which means I haven’t seen this even at Kinokuniya Webstore before.

Despite being new, Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women is also 20% off and I’ve been meaning to get it since it was released back on May 9th. And of course, After Dark — it’s been on my must-read Murakami books ever since, because of its story and the title itself speaks so much of the world where I exist.

And last but not the least, My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. It’s released in 2012 for the 20th anniversary of the film.

I’m just so happy to be finding it at Fully Booked. It’s been on my Kinokuniya wishlist for quite some time now but haven’t really decided when I’ll buy it because I’m thinking of getting the others first, so it’s really nice I was able to buy it at a lower price than Kinokuniya’s.

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My heart was so happy when I found this – My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. Released in 2012 in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary.

 

38th MIBF:Manga-sightings and adoring session of classics covers

Fully Booked has a wider selections of books (compared to National Book Store or Power Books), including a lot of manga, they even have Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures in hardcover. And I just love the covers of Sense and Sensibility and Les Miserables (Not that I ever read these two already or that I will ever read them.)

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Sherlock Holmes, Gothic Science Fiction Fantasy and Grimm’s Fairy Talesv

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The real Niccolo Machiavelli. I first heard of Machiavelli from Harry Potter and back then I thought he was fictional. Love the embossed words on the cover and back of this.

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I almost shrieked with joy (internally, of course) because I thought this was The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo but it wasn’t. It’s a parody of Kondo’s book. I got fooled. But the title is humorous and I can so relate to its opening lines.

38th MIBF: My last day, last hour visit

 

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My last day, last hour visit at the 38th Manila International Book Fair. #MIBF2017

I didn’t even go early or at least during the afternoon. I decided to just drop by and spend at least an hour to take a look. I wasn’t really intending to buy anything unless I see those that I like or something interesting.

I wasn’t really in a hurry to beat the 8pm closing so I wasn’t really minding the time. It was already 8:30pm and I’m still at the Fully Booked area and there’s still a lot of people so I took my own sweet time looking at every shelf. I eventually finished and decided to pay at 9pm and finally thought I should get myself some food.

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Not a fan of Precious Pages books but those two standee of anime guys caught my eyes.

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Rocco Nacino, Joross Gamboa, Luis Alandy, Marco Alcaraz, Precious Quigaman, and Richard Quan at the stage area on Sunday. 

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