Thursday, July 26, 2018

Murakami’s Newest Novel Deemed “Indecent” in Hong Kong

Murakami’s newest novel, Killing Commendatore, has been classified as "Class 2” indecent material by the Hong Kong Obscene Articles Tribunal. Indecent material is defined as including “violence, depravity and repulsiveness.” The Tribunal’s decision means that Killing Commendatore was removed from the Hong Kong Book Fair last week.  It can now only be sold in bookstores if the cover is wrapped and features a notice warning about its contents, with access restricted to those over the age of 18. The same is true of libraries — no readers under 18 may borrow the book. 

The decision was made public on July 12. Since then articles have appeared in the Japanese press by people puzzled by the decision. Readers have commented that some Murakami books were “much worse” in terms of sex scenes, asking why this one should be restricted. One might also ask why the decision is coming only now, when the book came out in Taiwan in December 2017 and in China in March 2018.

Here are links to articles in Yomiuri and Nikkei. The story was also featured in yesterday’s Guardian and South China Morning Post. 

On the surface of it, this seems pretty outrageous: censoring a book in this day and age? But in fact, this is not the first time this has happened to a Murakami book. In 2011, after “multiple" complaints from parents, Norwegian Wood was taken off a reading list at a high school in New Jersey, as reported by the Guardian in this article. The sex scene between Reiko and her student was described as a “drug-fueled homosexual orgy.” 

Of course this was just one school, as opposed to a whole “Special Administrative Region,” with a population of 7.4 million. One can imagine that the decision will probably greatly help the book’s sales China and elsewhere!

 The picture above comes from the Nikkei article quoted above, apparently showing the Hong Kong censor's warning sticker on the wrapped edition of Commendatore.  Observant followers of this blog will recognize the cover as that of the Taiwan edition of the book, in Lai Ming Chu's translation. I have looked around the internet for pictures showing the sticker on the mainland translation by Lin Shaohua, but so far have not found any.  I suspect this is because the Chinese edition published in Taiwan is more widely available: it seems that most Hong Kong readers prefer Lai's to Lin's  renditions.   

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