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.

delistraty-kazuo-ishiguro1

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.

cat1400_1

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.

LLL1

Ryan Gosling as jazz musician, Sebastian in La La Land

LLL d 09 _1627.NEF

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 

nlmg

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.

And 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, 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.”

 

Advertisements

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.

lastnightposter

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.

5-centimeters-2

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.*

Blade Runner anime short: Black Out

I just saw Blade Runner anime short – Blade Runner: Black Out, and it makes me feel like I wanna watch a full series of anime Blade Runner. Can we get an animated version of Ryan Gosling, director Shinichiro Watanabe?

From live action to anime / From anime to live action

It’s ironic how an original live action film/series, when it becomes an anime version; most often, the anime version enhances the original, or at par with the original and at times, even better than the original.

Blade Runner: Black Out is an original anime short though, but it’s still based on an original live action film, and serves as the prequel and bridge between the original 1982 film and the new Blade Runner that’s out starting next Friday.

However, this is not the case when it’s the other way around — when anime is the one being turned into live action version, such as the awful case of Netflix’ Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. Then there’s also the ever escalating dread to the newly-announced Hollywood remake of 2016’s biggest hit, that is Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). And more of that dread is expected to spread like wildfire up to when Paramount with JJ Abrams on the helm, finally reveals a teaser of the live action remake.

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.

20170917_201207

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.)

20170917_210148

20170917_202010

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

20170917_205858

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.

20170917_202138

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.

Tokyo Ghoul live action: My independent perspective

mainimage_ghoul

This is the first instance I ever watched something on the first day, last screening though because I don’t wanna miss it like when I almost didn’t get to watch Your Lie in April back in December.

Not a fan of the anime as I haven’t seen it but I’m quite familiar and so far has watched some clips before seeing the film. But every time there’s a live action adaptation of manga-anime series, I always wanna check out the trailer to see if I should watch it. Then I saw the trailer of this coupled with a great ending song, I was floored and quickly decided I’ll see it.

As far as reviews go, it’s generally positive. As for me, it doesn’t disappoint from my stand-alone view of not comparing to the anime-manga of course, so I’m not saying anything about how faithful the film is from the manga, which is pointed out as one of the strong points of the film.

I enjoyed watching it and I really like it because it has a great cast that’s suitable for the characters they portray, has good balance of drama and action, the scenes and pace play out well meaning it doesn’t drag, it isn’t so gory or too violent for me, the cinematography — I love the cold dark color and atmosphere of the film, I love the effects of the kagune — it really gives me the creeps, love the fight scenes, it’s so well-done, particularly that climactic face-off between Kaneki and Amon (Masataka Kubota and Nobuyuki Suzuki really executed this part really good), and not to forget really strong performances from the cast, specifically Nobuyuki Suzuki as Amon, Yu Aoi as Rize, Yu Oizumi as CCG investigator Mado and Masataka Kubota as Ken Kaneki.

I’m so amazed right now with Masataka, that part when he gets all consumed and deranged by his ghoul instincts and about to kill and eat Amon is the highlight of his performance as Kaneki. He gets all the craziness of this character all in the right ways, even when he was still the nerd human Kaneki.

He gets my respect from this performance. I do know him from Death Note TV series but haven’t seen it but after researching him, I found out he earned a best actor award as Light. This reminds me of how Kenichi Matsuyama also earned awards from his performance as L from the Death Note movies, but this time the cards are on Light’s side for having the stronger and more talented actor between the two. #MasatakaKubota

With this, the film makes me wanna watch the anime now and I’m now considering seeing Death Note TV series despite being uninterested when I first heard about it — one reason is that I’m not exactly okay with YamaKen as L.

Kakeru, Kousei, Kou: A trio of profound suffering

 

First, I knew about Kou then Kousei and now Kakeru and then it hit me, that these three form a deep puzzle.

When I came to the realization that their names all start with the same letter — letter K, I’m like ‘what kind of enchantment is this?’ It feels like it’s meant to be, maybe intentional or perhaps pure coincidence.

Besides the first name initial, these three have issues that concern their mothers but of course not in the same exact manner — one’s mom passed away due to an illness and he can’t forgive himself because he feels responsible in taking care of his mom as he promised to his brother when their parents got divorced, thinking if only he paid more attention then he would have noticed it (Kou); the other whose mom is so ruthless that she beats him which ends up with the son finally blowing up and cursing that he hopes she dies and ultimately it does happen (Kousei); and finally, a boy’s mom who’s sickly, also divorced when he was little and who needed her son to be with her at the hospital, to which he initially agreed but changed his mind to hang out with his new friends and informing her in a not so pleasing manner, which was followed by the mother breaking down and committing suicide (Kakeru).

All three have high sense of guilt, self-hate, and extreme trauma — depression. They deal with it in different manners but similarly, their behaviors and perspectives have all changed.

Out of the three, I’d say Kakeru has the most difficult depression because he’s reached that suicidal tendency stage unlike Kou and Kousei. Then again, what Kousei said to his mom is more distressing than what Kakeru did but Kakeru ended up feeling more guilty than Kousei as people have different reactions to such situations. Kousei, I think, at the end of the series, might have subtle suicidal tendencies after suffering a double blow when Kaori passed on but I guess Tsubaki is the key so that he could avoid it.

8376a457451154a93d066913a91e5ce9

On a side note,  Kakeru and Kou could really pass as twin brothers, seriously. I instantly thought of Kou the first time Kakeru made an appearance except the hairstyle and the eyes. Even Futaba and Naho are so alike other than the hairstyle and color and their eyes.