Pop Master

Outside looking in
Author in Focus
Garbage Dissect Our Modern Age

Break on through
The elusive Murakami

The Postmodern in Murakamis Novels
Terrorism before WTC
Japanese writer probes souls dark kingdom
Big in Japan
The healer
Murakami shares his thougts with students
A Japanese Novelist in Search of Lost Ideals
Inner space
Haruki Murakami does Seattle
Overview of the hard-boiled fiction of hm
The other Speech
dancing as fast as he can
Tokyo Prose
A Voice from Postmodern Japan
The American Scene
Hi Mr Haruki Murakami
The Return from the Lost world
Presents from the dead

Kato Koiti
Presents from the Dead
  August 1982
  Gunzo Magazine



When reading Murakami Haruki's novels, I sometimes feel as if lost in a fairyland. Within those novels are hotels called 'The Dolphin Hotel,' cats called 'Kipper,' and buses named 'Antelope' and 'Deer.' Having friends from Venus and Saturn is totally normal. Kawamoto Saburo was correct in his comment that within Murakami Haruki's novels, "There's a merry-go-round going around and around."



Nevertheless, although childlike images prevail, it would be unwise to conclude that the protagonist "I" is either unable to grow up, or he is merely childish. It should be the other way round. Emotionally immature people tend towards loneliness, they hold high opinions of themselves, they themselves stand out, and any problems that may occur are inevitably someone else's fault. It is evident that this is not the case with "I." Instead of attributing blame, he suffers in silence, and when introducing himself uses clichés such as 'dull,' 'average,' 'plain,' 'Capricorn, blood type A.' Yet, upon reading the argument with the "Boss'" private secretary, we realise again that life has been very tough on him. Just because he eats, for example animal cookies, doesn't mean he's childish.


Another point. Let us not forget that all through the trilogy of "Hear the Wind Sing," "Pinball 1973" and "A Wild Sheep Chase," "I" is forever the gentleman, always watching over and protecting women. He'd told his ex-wife about "The girl who'd sleep with anyone," but she reminded him that "But not with you, right?" "Basically, you're not that sort of guy. You can always be counted upon." Although whilst taking care of her "I" had slept with "the girl who'd sleep with anyone" every week, as long as he didn't remind his wife of it, she was correct. When he has a girlfriend, instead of relating to them on equal terms, he always appears overbearing. In "Pinball 1973," he supports the twins, teaching them manners, literally taking the place of their parent. Even if Murakami's novels are as if in a fairyland or amusement park, "I" is not so much a child playing there, rather, he's a lonely guardian or parent looking after his children.



This type of moulding of youth is exceptional, when compared to traditional Japanese novels. The protagonists of Japanese novels, from Soseki, Shiga Naoya and Tanizaki Jun'ichiro through to Kojima Nobuo have repeatedly been protective 'mother' figures, trying (often in vain) to guard their lover, or their wife. Jacques Lacan defined the entity which gave pleasure as "The Mother," and that which gave order (ie limits pleasure) as "The Father." However, in order that these protagonists may lead a stable existence, they need to look to their own "mother" figure, who fought against those outside agents (the world, parents) which impeded that stability. Japan's recent literary history is one of rebellious youth, and ostensibly, even one of symbolic patricide.


However, Murakami's protagonists, benevolent protectors that they are, cleverly avoid this historical stereotype, and manage to lead that stable existence. If one assumes that Murakami's novels stand out, it means merely that Japan's novelistic history is rooted in the swagger of rebellious sons. If this idea is appealing, it means that rather than being patricidal, his writing is a substitute for the parent.

Why is this possible?
It is undeniable that Hard-Boiled novels derive from an influential model. Although Philip Marlowe would put it differently, Hard-Boiled detectives come across as being bold yet gentle. "Bold" doesn't really need to be explained. But what sort of 'gentleness' are we talking about? It's definitely not the idea of fawning over women. While it's true that women are very important, excess admiration and over-affection are best avoided. This Hard-Boiled 'gentleness' has to be the even-handedness of a father. It has to depend on the situation.

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