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.


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