Life,  Read

Haruki Murakami revisits “The City and Its Uncertain Walls” after 40 years in new 600-page novel

  In the new 600-page novel “Cities and Their Uncertain Walls” published in Japan in April 2023, Murakami once again talks about “high walls”, using them to construct stories and leverage the protagonist’s inner entanglements. , speculation, hesitation, loss, etc., the high wall has become a common “Murakami motif” for readers.
  The famous saying “Eggs and High Walls” first came from Murakami’s speech “High Walls and Eggs” at the Jerusalem Literature Prize in 2013. At that time, the Israeli government that presented the award continued to carry out air strikes on Gaza, which was criticized by international peace groups.
  In his speech, Murakami bluntly and unceremoniously interpreted the “high wall” as the system, “The system is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it kills us and lets us kill on its own, coldly. , efficiently and systematically”. All hard and cold shackles, force and pressure that are far away from the people and their hearts belong to the “high wall”.
  Returning to Murakami’s works, readers will find that those who stubbornly resist the high wall are always teenagers one after another.
  People often tease him that he has been running for the Nobel Prize for thousands of years, but in fact, he is already over 70 years old this year, and he is still a “youngster” in his works. The main narrative of “City” is not unfamiliar to Murakami’s readers: the 17-year-old “I” met the 16-year-old “you”, and we often talked about the world surrounded by high walls, until one day, “you” suddenly Disappear, everything between us is inexplicably erased, and the world returns to loneliness.
  ”City” is actually a rewrite of a novella written more than forty years ago. As early as 1980, Haruki Murakami published a more than 60,000-word article “The City and its Uncertain Wall” in the magazine “Literary Circle”. Later, he tried to expand it into a full-length novel. In the end, he found that the original story was not a full-length novel. It was not enough to support the length of one million words, so I simply started a new one, but I just kept the name from forty years ago.
  In the postscript of his new work in 2023, Murakami lamented that he has been brooding over it for the past forty years. At that time, he actually didn’t really want to publish the novella, and due to various reasons, he could only publish it “in a completely immature manner.”
  Murakami claimed that at that time, when he had just become a novelist, he did not have enough self-awareness about what he could and could not write. However, the 60,000-word novella contained something very important to him early on. The important element was just that the writing power at the time could not fully express that element.
  Over the past forty years, Murakami has been trying to find a new perspective to rewrite “The City and Its Uncertain Walls”. Until 2020, the new coronavirus epidemic began to sweep the world. In the next three years, Haruki Murakami hardly went out and stayed in the house to write every day. In this closed and stable state, Murakami returned to the “city” again.
  His inspiration exploded at this time. Initially, I only planned to finish the first part of the current new novel, which is the first 192 pages of the book. I wrote that I found that the ending here was not enough, so I wrote the second part of 400 pages in one go (pages 193 to 598). pages), and a third volume of one hundred pages. The epidemic also appears in the story, but only briefly.
  After writing three volumes, Murakami finally felt that “the fish bone stuck in his throat for many years has finally been pulled out.”
  This thorn, and the wall he had been trying to poke his head out of, had continued to haunt him and hold him hostage for decades. This is an important nutrient for a writer’s long-term creation. Through this, Murakami constantly uses inward inspection and outward attack to transcend life and times on the soil of world literature and within the scale of human spiritual civilization.
  In the postscript of “The City”, Murakami quoted Borges to describe the only writing theme that he could never let go of: “Basically, the number of stories that a writer can truly tell in his life is limited. What we can do, That is to use different techniques and different forms to rewrite these limited numbers of themes (motifs).”
  In his creative career of more than 40 years, Murakami has repeatedly written about personal growth, freedom and choice, and the eternity that cannot be ignored is the most important. The theme includes reflection and resistance against high walls.
  This “wall” has lasted for more than half a century and remains strong and eye-catching, thanks to the “boy” who never gave up in Murakami’s creative life. After reaching the age of seventy, some of Murakami’s long-lasting themes, like the writer himself, are “frozen in age” in his boyhood.
  Since his debut novel, Haruki Murakami has presented the world with a light and youthful perspective. He chose to spend a lot of time describing the protagonist’s relationship between sentimentality and superficial indifference. He weaved an unconstrained story and wandered through it. It is a detachment between indifference and awe-inspiring.
  Therefore, Murakami never seems to be “worldly” enough, but to say that Murakami is “out of the world”, his readers, as well as himself, may respond with a noncommittal sneer.
  Murakami’s most famous work is “Norwegian Wood”, which was also adapted into a movie by the famous Vietnamese director Chen Yingxiong. Many people will inevitably be shocked when they read “Norway” for the first time – if they are younger readers, especially female readers, they will most likely call Murakami a “rogue” because of this book.
  Why is Watanabe “irresponsible” to so many girls? Why does he want to indulge himself without learning or skills? However, reading Murakami from a realist perspective will inevitably lead to an inaccurate fork in the road. Murakami will sit on a high branch like a gangster and laugh at you: So serious?
  But there is no doubt that whether he is experiencing it as the protagonist or narrating it as the author, Murakami will never avoid the rules. It seems to be an understatement, but in fact it has caused a quiet offense to the readers. After reading it, it took a long time to feel unhappy, like being suffocated in a damp and heavy jungle, with hands and feet tangled.
  ”Loneliness” is a persistent theme in his works. Behind loneliness is alienation, the alienation between people, the alienation between people and their own hearts, and the alienation between people and the entire external world.
  In “The End of the World and Grim Wonderland”, which is known as one of “Murakami’s three masterpieces” alongside “Norway”, Murakami began to use the boundless imagination that he is good at. The novel has 40 chapters in total, and the odd 20th chapter is “Cold Wonderland”, which tells the story of two major underworld organizations fighting for a device to control the human brain. The even-numbered chapter 20 is “The End of the World”, a space isolated from the world. The residents are cold and calm. They are at peace with each other and have no hearts, emotions or goals.
  Is this an ideal, safe world? The attitude of the author Murakami is self-evident: this is a hell that wipes out all life. In the “cold world”, the doctor who studies the method of making all sounds disappear believes that once this technology is made public, it will bring immeasurable disaster. For rulers, this is not the case, erasing all sounds, but when the world truly falls into silence, it is actually another kind of disaster.
  ”There is a sadness that cannot be shed in the world. This kind of sadness cannot be explained to anyone, and even if it is explained, people will not understand it. It remains unchanged, like snowflakes on a windless night, quietly depositing in the bottom of my heart. When I was younger, I also I tried to put this sadness into words. However, no matter how I searched for words, I could not convey it to others, or even to myself, so I had to give up this effort. In this way, I closed my language and my heart. . Deep sorrow cannot even be expressed in the form of tears.”
  ”The End” and “Wonderland” are translated by Lin Shaohua. In comparison, “The End” and “Imagination” translated by another Murakami translator, Lai Mingzhu “More straightforward. Through the fantasy of two illusory extreme situations, “doomsday” and “artistic conception”, Murakami still hides the discussion of “wall”.
  Lin Shaohua, one of Murakami’s royal translators, said for Murakami in the postscript of the translation: “In the final analysis, there is only one reason why I write novels, and that is to let the dignity of the individual soul emerge and cast light on it. Often cast light, To sound the alarm, lest our souls be entangled and degraded by the system. This is the duty of stories, I firmly believe in it. I constantly try to make people cry, make people fear, and make people cry by writing stories about life and death, and stories about love. To make people laugh, in order to prove the irreplaceability of every soul – this is the novelist’s job.”
  Reading it now, this passage is not only as valuable, but even more important. Not long ago, a group of young writers took exams for editing, which stung a group of young people. From a certain Murakami-style egg-and-high-wall theory perspective, the public is really not too conceited. Behind this is a kind of disgust and disappointment that is close to the collapse of faith. .
  In the work “The Adventures of Sheep” published in 1982, in order to prevent the evil spirit that attempts to control the country from existing in the world, the young “rat” sacrifices himself and becomes the host of the evil spirit, and then resolutely kills himself to achieve this goal. “I will perish with you.”
  This kind of all-destructive ending is actually not common in most of Murakami’s modernist novels.
  In the Japanese literary world and even the world literary world, Murakami has always been a special role. Murakami, who has been running for the Nobel Prize every year, has always been regarded by most people as a writer who is far away from mainstream awards.
  Compared with those seasoned, deep, and perpetually frowning writers, he indeed seems too light and too detached. No matter how you look at it, it seems that a world-class century-old trophy like the Nobel Prize should be given to intellectual writers like Oe Kenzaburo and Gurner who frown and think about the national spiritual crisis and human responsibility.
  As for Murakami, he does not have the depth and dignity of a top literary giant that makes people awe from a distance. Instead, he is like a foolish boy who will never grow up, doing nothing all day long, or locking himself in the study. Who knows what he’s doing, but it’s probably not a bad thing. He would rather whisper with the darkness than face the sunshine.
  He is detached from the world, wearing loose casual clothes, maybe with messy hair, standing far away from the lively and prosperous dance floor, looking at the well-dressed adults with shiny faces chatting and joking, and giving out a disdainful sneer. .
  But this kind of coldness is not the fierce coldness of Lu Xun’s “cold eyebrows pointing at a thousand fingers”, nor is it the “ruined” coldness of Hesse who sinks to the bottom of despair and no longer struggles. Murakami’s coldness, more It is a kind of “light”.
  Kazuo Ishiguro, who is also a Japanese-born writer and has won the Nobel Prize, gives people the impression of deep blackness in his writing and person, but Haruki Murakami, even though he will not appear in the banquet, is black. Green is everywhere in nature.
  In this world, green is not uncommon. It does not require artificial adjustment and can be seen everywhere in the world. In the Chinese world, it even has a bit of derogatory and self-deprecating meaning. But to the literary world, Murakami is indeed a touch of green that lives outside the world, is light and low-key.
  Murakami, born in 1949, is known as Japan’s first pure “post-World War II writer”. Post-war writers are all reflecting on trauma, including the sadness and desolation of Kawabata Yasunari, and the deep sorrow of Oe Kenzaburo. However, Murakami’s works rarely have the gloomy and heavy atmosphere after the war. Instead, they are light in tone, plain and warm, and occasionally cold and sad. Nor is it a bloody account of reality.
  Therefore, the banner of “postmodernity” has always been with him.
  As an only child, a familiar feeling in childhood for Murakami was loneliness. Later, he wrote in the article “Abandoned Cat”: “As an only child, I had no brothers or brothers since I was a child. My most precious companions are books and cats. My favorite thing every day is to bask in the sun on the porch with the cat. The boy When I first read it, I felt lonely, but now that I have read it again after many years of ups and downs, I actually feel that there is some kind of healing in the loneliness.”
  Murakami’s father is a Chinese language teacher and has high hopes for Murakami, and consciously cultivated Murakami’s interest in Japanese classical literature. But Murakami was not interested. Instead, he had a soft spot for Western literature. Throughout his school days, he read a lot of foreign literature, but paid perfunctory attention to his schoolwork. He believes that he is not interested in those things, and “if you are not interested, you will never learn anything.” After entering junior high school, Murakami was often beaten for not studying hard.
  Before becoming famous, as a teenager, this rebellion was just rebellion, but it was not interpreted as “respecting oneself” or “following one’s heart”.
  After entering high school, Murakami’s rebellious mentality became more serious. He hung out, smoked, and skipped classes all day long. In Chinese terms, he was a “problem boy.” But in fact, if you think about it carefully, many people are like this in their youth. As long as they are not evil-minded, most of them have a clear resistance to reality.
  The same goes for Murakami. He has begun to reflect on the significance of institutional education since he was a boy. For example, although he is keen on reading European and American literature and can read most English books from beginning to end, it has hardly any help for his English scores.
  Many years later, Murakami recalled the reason with a mocking tone: “At that time, Japan implemented a result-oriented education system, and teachers only cared about whether the words on the paper were spelled correctly.” This is exactly the same as our “dumb English” in China.
  German writer Hermann Hesse, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, also reflected on the stranglehold of the education system on people. But compared to the more detached Murakami, Hesse is a destructionist who throws out pain and finally allows it to drown him.
  Speaking of which, Hesse’s masterpiece “Under the Wheel” also appeared in “Norwegian Wood”. Watanabe spent the night at Midoriko’s house and commented that “Under the Wheel” is a good novel.
  In the two works, the protagonists’ hesitation and loss are indeed similar. But unlike Hesse, who was desperate to the end, Murakami would consciously look for an exit, and he would dismiss it with a dismissive smile, although in fact he was still secretly feuding inside.
  This also has something to do with Murakami’s overall smoother upbringing. Because he was too playful in high school, he failed to enter college for the first time. After repeating his studies, he entered the Literature Department of Waseda University. It was almost natural and inevitable that a rebel like Murakami would resolutely join the popular student movement at the time.
  The vigorous movement gave Murakami an opportunity to vent all his dissatisfaction in the first half of his life. In “Norwegian Wood”, he used the psychological condition of his characters to describe this a little bit: a young man who was excluded from the mainstream since childhood finally found a sense of belonging in the consciousness-driven movement at the university.
  Perhaps because he has been nourished and influenced by European and American literature since childhood, Murakami definitely does not have the ambiguous national character of the Japanese, but is replaced by a sharp and venomous tongue.
  But it is different from Oe Kenzaburo’s heavy search for hope from the depths of despair. His words always have a bit of lazy nagging and grinding, sometimes a little tangled and circuitous, which is different from harmony and compromise, but a kind of unity. A kind of restrained and awe-inspiring attitude towards the world.
  He has never been at all flattering to readers and the world. The scary thing is that when you realize this, you have already fallen into the cold wonderland he weaves.
  The protagonists in Murakami’s works, like himself, always have an alienated and careless youthful air. Just like in the book “Norway”, the enthusiastic roommates all went to participate in sports, while the protagonist Watanabe sat alone in the dormitory on a rainy day, looking at the drooping Japanese flag outside the window, in a daze and reverie. But at the same time, they are often the epitome of a group embedded in an era.
  Leisure in time and congestion in mind are common characteristics of “teenagers”. In the 1979 famous work “Listen to the Wind Sing”, a young man “spent a lazy summer and recalled some sad things.” Between loneliness and nothingness, the protagonist allowed his thoughts to grow wildly and began to Perceive the strangeness and absurdity of the world.
  In the novel “Kafka on the Shore” published in 2002, Murakami placed the 15-year-old Kafka in the dramatic framework of an ancient Greek tragedy. In order to escape the prophecy that he would eventually “kill his father and marry his mother”, he Kafka left home alone and came to the remote island of Shikoku. But in the end, his fate was not as tragic as Oedipus’s, but he was redeemed. After experiencing all kinds of strange and strange events, he became “the strongest 15-year-old boy in the world.”
  Even redemption has a bit of a “secondary” flavor. It seems to be divorced from reality and has a certain post-modern style of reverie and fantasy. He dreamed of a “new world” out of thin air and realized it through the pursuit of existential crisis. Its own meaning finally “becomes part of the new world.”
  Looking at it this way, Murakami always has a glimmer of hope.
  But the premise of all this is not to touch reality directly. Occasionally, he would choose silence, or close the door that leaked a glimmer of light.
  In 1984, Murakami published a short story “Burning the Barn” that paid tribute to his favorite writer Faulkner’s “Burning the Barn.” This novella was adapted by Korean director Lee Chang-dong more than thirty years later and has a strong post-modern feel. style, there is no clear dramatic ending, Murakami ends an absurd journey with an abrupt end.
  He always has a compassionate undertone.
  The boy he created is obviously more convincing than most 70-year-old writers.
old boy

  Probably if a person continues to do one thing until he grows old, sooner or later he will be endowed with some kind of spiritual or meaningful symbol.
  Murakami, who only started writing when he was nearly thirty years old, gradually evolved into an inspirational role model in the literary world in his middle and later years. He insists on running, has no children, and leads a simple and light life. His writings have maintained a slightly secluded feel for decades.
  After reaching middle and later years, Murakami did not show the heaviness that time should have. He still takes pains to return to teenagers in his novels, but the teenagers he portrays are obviously more convincing than most 70-year-old writers.
  To this day, the world can conclude that Murakami chose not to enter the traditional family structure, which means that it is impossible to have any more children. In today’s terms, he is a rare “DINK” man in East Asian society.
  Murakami and his wife Yoko of the same age met on the university campus and got married at the age of 22. Their love spanned half a century, and they went from poverty to fame together. After getting married, Murakami and his wife did not choose to raise children.
  He refuses to be a father, and this “father” means many things. In addition to the literal meaning, there is also rebellion and rejection of the cultural and spiritual father. In fashionable social media parlance, it’s a complete rejection of “dadiness”.
  In the essay “Abandoned Cat, What I Want to Say About My Father” written after the age of 70, Murakami revealed to readers for the first time the story of his father and World War II. His closest father was actually a Japanese invader who committed crimes, which forever planted the seeds of guilt and shame in the young Murakami’s heart.
  In works such as “The Passage of Souls” and “Colorless Tazakiza and His Childhood”, Murakami also tried to awaken the numb Japanese people and tried to use his own purity and simplicity to make up for the blood stained by his father’s generation.
  Later, every time Murakami visited China as a writer, he insisted on refusing to eat local food, preferring to carry canned food with him. He considered this a kind of personal atonement.
  Not having children is also mixed with such a will to atone.
  For Murakami, who is accustomed to living in Qingning, this static and lifelong persistence may be his most obvious resistance in reality. Projected into creation, we can naturally get a glimpse of Murakami’s persistent “boyish” perspective.
  Because he has never been a father, he will not write about the patriarchal transmission that many East Asian male writers try to reflect on or reproduce in his books, and he will be free of many realist troubles and worries.
  It is conceivable that if a writer like Murakami, who is sensitive and pursues purity, chooses to have children and falls into the trivialities of the family like most people, then his words will inevitably add a lot of depression and disorder that cannot be ignored. It would be impossible for him to be as light-hearted as he is today and to trust the “young man” so unreservedly.
  It’s unclear to what extent becoming a father will reverse his attitude of fighting against the high wall.
  He resisted war, resisted the pedantic system, and opposed creation against his will. This seemingly gentle and calm writer actually carried out a long period of resistance throughout his life.
  This time, “City” is not as sharp as Murakami’s earlier works. The entire story is sparsely drawn out, and there is no specific satire on the system and capital society. Instead, it reveals a seemingly gentle peace.
  In the original text, the Japanese word “city” is “まち”, which generally refers to shopping streets, food streets or commercial districts in cities, and is similar to “downtown” in English. Murakami’s vision has narrowed, and he is no longer obsessed with breaking down the entire “hard-boiled wonderland” and “apocalyptic world” walls, but instead has a closer observation of the closure and shackles of the present. This book will be completed at the turn of the spring and summer of 2023. The personal experience and social history of the past three years will inevitably be integrated into Murakami’s words. “Please control your soul’s desire for freedom,” he said in his now aged tone, sighing to the young man in his heart.
  When he was young, Murakami once described himself: “For me, ‘just right’ has become a key word in life. I am not handsome, my legs are not long, I am tone-deaf, and I am not a genius. When I think about it, I am almost useless. But I I feel that if this is just right, then it is just right.”
  This was a seemingly roundabout and ridiculing explanation, and he “picked it out” himself.
  Just like the creative concept that has lasted for decades, he has consciously kept a distance from mainstream topics, restrained from reality, and had a low desire for life. Murakami is a person who “hides” himself.
  There are some writers in the world who seem to be worldly, but in fact they have completely removed themselves from the “human” standard that is a mixture of responsibility, morality and emotion, and have protected themselves far from the public torrent that can easily trigger a tsunami.
  There are also some writers who may appear to be careless, Buddhist or even world-weary, but in fact they are always keeping an eye on the ups and downs of the world they live in.
  Haruki Murakami belongs to the latter category.
  There is probably a kind of boy in the world who never grows up. He does not have middle age or old age. The moment he truly wants to be an adult is the moment he dies.
  Before the high wall, the boy was all he had, a sharp blade that did not need to be polished.

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