The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami
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In an “other world” composed of language—it could be a fathomless Martian well, a labyrinthine hotel or forest—a narrative unfolds, and with it the experiences, memories, and dreams that constitute reality for Haruki Murakami’s characters and readers alike. Memories and dreams in turn conjure their magical counterparts—people without names or pasts, fantastic animals, half-animals, and talking machines that traverse the dark psychic underworld of this writer’s extraordinary fiction.
Fervently acclaimed worldwide, Murakami’s wildly imaginative work in many ways remains a mystery, its worlds within worlds uncharted territory. Finally in this book readers will find a map to the strange realm that grounds virtually every aspect of Murakami’s writing. A journey through the enigmatic and baffling innermost mind, a metaphysical dimension where Murakami’s most bizarre scenes and characters lurk, The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami exposes the psychological and mythological underpinnings of this other world. Matthew Carl Strecher shows how these considerations color Murakami’s depictions of the individual and collective soul, which constantly shift between the tangible and intangible but in this literary landscape are undeniably real.
Through these otherworldly depths The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami also charts the writer’s vivid “inner world,” whether unconscious or underworld (what some Japanese critics call achiragawa, or “over there”), and its connectivity to language. Strecher covers all of Murakami’s work—including his efforts as a literary journalist—and concludes with the first full-length close reading of the writer’s newest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
as odd in this tale is that so down to earth a character as Casaubon, by novel’s end, appears to believe in “the Plan” himself, and yet, what other options lie open to him? Though it may well be a figment of the collective imagination of “the diabolicals,” it is nonetheless a lethal figment; it has already claimed the life of Belbo and threatens that of Casaubon as well. By novel’s end he cannot even bring himself to leave a final note explaining how things have come to this pass; he will only be
Noboru in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and so on), appeared to hold insurmountable power, a mixture of political, commercial, and media muscle, and yet, somehow, Murakami’s loner protagonists, representing the voice of the nonconformist, the determined individualist, battled with considerable success against these superpowers. This is what Murakami meant when he spoke in Jerusalem about eggs hitting a great and powerful wall. His protagonists have always been the eggs, and somehow or other, even
Yoshiya about having harbored lustful thoughts about Yoshiya’s mother. Standing on the pitcher’s mound, the young man remembers his urge to confess similar feelings of his own for her. But this causes him to recall the words he would like to have said to Tabata: that our hearts contain both good and evil, but in the end what matters is sharing our souls with one another. This, finally, seems to bring Yoshiya inner peace, and if there is a “quest” in this story, we might conclude that it is not
magical realism with science fiction (Sekai no owari to hādo-boirudo wandārando, 1985; translated as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World), with romance (Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi, 1992, translated as South of the Border, West of the Sun; and Supūtoniku no koibito, 1999, translated as The Sputnik Sweetheart), with the psychological thriller (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), and even with the quasi-spiritual (Umibe no Kafka, 2002, translated as Kafka on the Shore; 1Q84, 2009–10,
according to Tazaki’s own description, in that it operates under certain unspoken rules, first and foremost of which is that they must always do everything together. Explaining it to his girlfriend, Kimoto Sara, in the present narrative, Tazaki calls their group “‘an orderly, harmonious team,’”3 but it would be more accurate to describe it as a kind of hermetically sealed, utopian closed circle, and there is an implicit curse set against any who might disrupt its perfection. Tazaki is the first