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.

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.”

 

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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.*

Orange anime series and my Japanese inclination for such stories

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Orange has been on my list since late last year while I was occupied with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April). I’ve been listening to its soundtrack from early this year without having even started the anime series and now it’s on repeat again as I’m finally watching it.

Stories such as (depression and suicide) Orange tend to have gravitational pull towards me. It’s been a strong predilection for me but my very first venture and exposure to such themes was when I read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami back in college (Thanks to a college classmate’s recommendation). In this, three people committed suicide — Kizuki, who killed himself when he was 17, Reiko, and then eventually Naoko who had been struggling with the loss of Kizuki.

Then in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, which is now my favorite Murakami novel, there’s also suicide and depression with the character of Shiro.

With anime both series and films, such examples among my favorites are 5 Centimeters per Second’s Takaki, Ao Haru Ride’s Kou, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s Kousei, Koe no Katachi’s Shoya and Shouko, and then this anime series — Orange with Kakeru, which is set to become among my favorite anime series.

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Apart from the same themes, these are all Japanese. Even Kizuki’s suicide and Kakeru’s suicide in the alternative timeline are similar — both are 17.

Depression and suicide are highly complex because both are psychological and even more difficult to explain than any kind of medical illness.

I’m starting to wonder why I have so much attachment to characters and stories with the said elements. On my take, it’s something I deeply contemplate about. A close friend said, it’s because it’s something I can understand but perhaps it’s more than that.

The Gift of Books, Itachi and Sasuke Goodies

I’m writing this post at 11:15pm, Dec. 31st just before everything starts over again.

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I’m thankful for these great gifts of experience, adventure and knowing great people who are like real friends to me; although they’re fictional people. Most of the time, these people are the kind of people I’d really like to meet and be friends with. They’re the kind who are not so easy to find in the human world, so I’m really grateful for these wonderful stories of life, of love, of friendship, and everything else in between.

The most memorable character for me this year is Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s so close to who I am and I feel so connected with his story, despite not exactly having the same dilemma and ordeal he had to go through.

At present, I’m reading my first non-fiction book and travel related  one but still so Japanese. I’m enjoying it a lot, having to know more about the country I hold so dearly – my favorite country Japan.

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I also thank my Uncle Luvin from the States, who paved the way for me to be able to get Haruki Murakami’s latest release – The Strange Library; as well as this very beautiful (Naruto) Itachi messenger bag and this bad-ass looking Sasuke’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan necklace. But of course, before Uncle Luvin; it is God I have to thank for all these.

This year might not have been the best with an unfortunate event, but I’m looking forward to starting over again. I do not want to promise, instead I will keep on trying and learning from mistakes everyday; and hoping my Christmas wish that I always prayed for during the nine-day Misa de Gallo mass will be awarded to me by God this new year.

Happy New Year everyone and God bless!

Updating this post with some photos earlier during the New Year’s Eve dinner or media noche. Well, I don’t usually post photos of myself but it won’t hurt to do once in a while. I had to take the photos myself and I’m not so good with taking selcas; as I’m not with any family member, but it’s still good. And since I’m not photogenic, I had to take a couple of shots to finally capture some decent ones.

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I suddenly noticed earlier that my glasses and my shirt are the same color. That was not intentional.

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The only ones I personally prepared are the macaroni salad and the ham. The apple crumble, chicken and pancit malabon were take-out orders.

The candles, they’re called prosperity candles. I’m not sure if this tradition is done elsewhere too, but the practice is you light all (7) candles: red (health), blue (peace), yellow (intelligence), violet (spiritual growth), pink (love), green (money), and orange (career) at 11:30pm and put them out at 12 midnight. The smallest candle or the one that melted the quickest symbolizes the good fortune that the new year will bring you first, followed by the rest.

It’s really hard though to decipher which one is the smallest since the candles got a little mixed up when they melted. But I think orange is the smallest, then pink, blue, green, red, violet and yellow.

Orange is for career, hurray! I think this one got me a little excited, crossing my fingers and praying it will be. Pink for love, but not so much a priority. Blue for peace, oh yes peace of mind. Green for money, so I could travel more and buy more books; and Naruto manga and some goodies, and save more. Red for health, good health is always a blessings. Violet for spiritual growth, guidance from God. And last but not the least, yellow for intelligence; to learn new things and new experiences for the mind, body and soul intellect.

First Thoughts – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

I recall being so excited when I first read a synopsis of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage last year. I knew it from then that it is something I should get my hands on and will be included in one of my best Murakami books.

I did not have this particular reaction with 1Q84 though when I first heard about it. I don’t really know what is wrong with the story that somehow it doesn’t appeal to me, for now maybe. Maybe it’s just my taste or maybe something is wrong with me that I’m not all excited with what it is about.

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Picture credits to kmn04books.wordpress.com

After finishing Claire Tomalin’s Invisible Woman yesterday, I started reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki earlier over a rice cake and hot chocolate.

I particularly love this passage on page 8.  A unique sense of harmony developed between them – each one needed the other four and, in turn, shared the sense that they too were needed. The whole convergence was like a lucky but entirely accidental chemical fusion, something that could only happen once.

At this early part of Tsukuru’s story, I identify with some qualities of his friend Shiro, whose family name means ‘white root.’ She’s slim and tall, with a model’s body, graceful features of a traditional Japanese doll, with silky lustrous long black hair, a skilled pianist, a serious person, dislikes drawing attention to herself, beautiful, and dreams of becoming a vet.

And while I don’t have a model’s body nor features of a Japanese doll, not even a long silky black hair, nor am I beautiful or a skilled pianist, and does not dream of becoming a vet; but as I picture her in my mind and the things we have in common, I think if she’s ever real I can really be good friends with her.

But still, I connect the most to Tsukuru who views himself having no special qualities or a striking personality, a weird kid, with incurable boredom, whose only real interest are train stations, and who thinks there is something about him that is not exactly normal.

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It is like getting to know someone who thinks the same way as I am. I don’t particularly have his profound adoration to train stations but I do love beautiful train stations like HongKong’s MTR – I adore it. I can literally spend all day hopping on and off at every station. One reason I also love the cover design of the book is the use of train station colors and stops. I could say I’m an average train station enthusiast compared to Tsukuru. However, we both have the same view of thinking that we are colorless.

A big thanks to my brother Jorge who bought the book for me.

photo credits panorami.com

photo credits panorami.com