July 04, 2006

Haruki Murakami

A fascinating interview with Japanese author Haruki Murakami. I particularly like this quote, arising out of his interviews with individuals involved in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system:

Murakami came to empathise with the work-obsessed salarymen and office ladies whom he had previously felt were not worth writing about. "Many people expected that I would be sympathetic to the cult people because they're outsiders. But that was not the case. They're shallow, but the common people have the depth of real life."

Turning Tolstoy's famous quote upside down, crazy, wide-eyed fanatics all tend to be crazed and wide-eyed in pretty much the same way, while the rest of the mostly normal, mostly happy population can find an almost infinite number of ways to remain mostly normal and mostly happy.

And this one:

[Orpheus] goes to the underworld to look for his deceased wife, but it's far away and he has to undergo many trials to get there. There's a big river and a wasteland. My characters go to the other world, the other side. In the Western world, there is a big wall you have to climb up. In [Japan], once you want to go there, it's easy. It's just beneath your feet.

I would amend that last part a little. Rather than "in the Western world," I would write, "in the world of Western literary criticism." Literary criticism, after all, invented the oxymoronic (though admittedly taxonomically useful) genre called "magical realism" to describe those anointed authors who strayed too far from the "realism" reservation. Heaven forefend, as Stephen King discovered, they should write, without apology, plain, unadorned fantasy.

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