Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Phil Gabriel's Translation of Murakami's Speech on the Meaning of Walls

The Guardian has published a translation of Murakami Haruki's speech given at the Welt Prize award ceremony. Murakami talks about the role of walls in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but also mentions the "wall-and-egg" speech he gave in Jerusalem.

Here is a short teaser:
"Sometimes it seems to me that we destroy one wall only to build another. It could be an actual wall, or an invisible wall that surrounds the mind. There are walls that tell us not to go any further from where we are, and walls that tell others not to come in. One wall finally collapses, the world looks different, and we breathe a sigh of relief, only to discover that another wall has been erected in another part of the world – a wall of ethnicity, of religion, a wall of intolerance, of fundamentalism, a wall of greed, a wall of fear. Are we unable to live without a system of walls?"

 Escape from reality … Haruki Murakami. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

You can read the whole speech here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Haruki Murakami Studies Center Set Up in Taiwan

On September 22 this year, a center for Haruki Murakami Studies 村上春樹研究センター
was established at Tamkang University in Taiwan. In Chinese it is called 淡江大學村上春樹研究中心 (Danjiang daxue Cunshang Chunshu yanjiu zhongxin), and the English name is "Center for Murakami Haruki Studies in Tamkang University." 

This is what the logo looks like:

And here is the link to the Center's website:

An article published by the Japan News on November 6 says that, "The center’s goal is not only studying Murakami’s works as literature, but also comprehensively studying the economic effects and social influence brought about by those works." The Center, headed by Professor Tseng Ch'iu-kuei 曾秋, is also planning to organize international symposia on Murakami's writing.

Here is a picture from the opening ceremony:

Motoyuki Shibata, the renowned translator of American literature, gave a lecture at the ceremony, and he can be seen in the above picture (eighth from the right).  Also shown (far left, in white) is Lai Ming-chu, the Taiwanese translator of Murakami's works.

To read the whole Japan News story, go to: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001695726.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Murakami Receives the Welt Literature Prize and Expresses Support for Hong Kong Protesters

Haruki Murakami received the Welt Literature Prize on November 8 in Berlin. In his acceptance speech, which came on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, he expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters, comparing their situation to that of Palestinians in Gaza and of  East Germans, formerly separated by the Wall.

This is not the first occasion when Murakami has spoken during an awards ceremony about political issues. When he received the Jerusalem Prize in 2009, he gave a famous speech about "the egg and the wall" (read it here), and in Barcelona, when receiving the Catalonia (or: Catalunya) International Prize in 2011, he spoke in the aftermath of the Great Tōhoku earthquake about the corporate greed and problems born from using nuclear energy in Japan. You can hear the speech here and read the English translation here.

Many newspapers have reported about the Berlin speech, including the South China Morning Post published in Hong Kong, which quoted him as follows:

A world without walls can be created “in the quiet but sustained effort to keep on singing, to keep on telling stories, stories about a better and freer world to come, without losing heart,” he said. “We can see [a world without walls] with our own eyes – we can even touch it with our own hands if we try hard. I’d like to send this message to the young people in Hong Kong who are struggling against their wall right now at this moment.”
The Japan Times also published a story about the event.  Die Welt, which awarded the prize, published a longish article describing how Murakami reminisced about the first time he came to Berlin thirty years ago and watched a performance of The Magic Flute in East Berlin. The story also mentioned a surprise appearance by Patti Smith, apparently a great Murakami fan. Unfortunately, the story failed to mention the name of his main translator, Ursula Gräfe, or the names of any of the other German translators of Murakami, although Ursula was present at the ceremony. It is as if the books have translated themselves! Let me applaud Ursula's work here. As far as I know, she has translated six of Murakami Haruki's novels, a number of stories, and the "running book." It seems that it deserved at least a brief mention... You can read an interview with Ursula here.