Thursday, February 26, 2009

Haruki (Jerusalem Prize) Murakami

I've never read anything by 'renowned' Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami - except his reasons (The novelist in wartime, salon.com, 20/2/09) for accepting Israel's Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.

Jerusalem Prize? As in Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan? Surely not? Hang on. Breathe in, breathe out. Apparently, G(JP)S got a different Jerusalem Prize, the one awarded annually by the State Zionist Council of NSW to "someone who fosters and supports the state of Israel and its ideologies, the concept of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish community, particularly in Australia." (Honoring Israel's apologists, Sonja Karkar, electronicintifada.net, 7/5/07) So glad we sorted that one out! Any other Jerusalem Prizes hanging around out there?

Anyway, back to the "great author" (salon.com) Murakami-san, and his 'reasons'. In the business of hosing down Zionist propaganda, I don't need to tell you, one comes across some quality crap. Now while Murakami's 'reasons' can't be pigeonholed as Zionist propaganda, by God, they're up there with the best of the latter.

He opens with "I have come to Jerusalem today as a novelist, which is to say a professional spinner of lies." Well, hasn't he come to the right place! Move over, Mark Regev. It seems that for Murakami, being a novelist and being a human being are two different things, not to be confused: I'm sorry, Your Honour, I was wearing a different hat when I did it. Strewth! But old Murakami's a subtle one, because, as he explains, "by telling skillful lies... the novelist can bring a truth out to a new location and shine a light on it." So he's a liar, but not really... Gawd!

And just when he's left you completely in the dark, he changes hats: "Today, however, I have no intention of lying. I will try to be as honest as I can." And here's "the truth": "In Japan a fair number of people advised me not to come here to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Some even warned me they would instigate a boycott of my books if I came. The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in Gaza. The UN reported that more than a thousand people had lost their lives in the blockaded Gaza City, many of them unarmed citizens - children and old people."

He needed to be warned? He actually needed to be warned? Did he only become aware of Gaza's pulverising (thanks, Phillip) when he got these warnings? Could it be that he really had no idea what was going on there? Or only the faintest? What's this "fierce battle" shit? What battle? There was no battle, Bozo, just the boots-and-all slaughter of a defenceless people by a deranged military machine set in motion by equally deranged politicians. So what the hell was Murakami doing when the literally bleeding obvious was pushing its way into our living rooms and newspapers last month? Smashed on sake? Asleep? Looking for his novelist hat so he could sit down and knock off a few more lies on his computer?

And what's this "blockaded Gaza City" nonsense? Murakami's clearly clueless, and quite possibly doesn't give a damn anyway. But that's fine - why not just say so: Look I was just too damn busy and quite frankly couldn't give a stuff anyway.

Heedless of Pablo Neruda's "blood in the streets," Murakami's only concern is this: "Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to see my books subjected to a boycott."

That's right, even if the blood is too far away to concern him, there's still that nagging question: Will I be seen as supporting the "nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power"? Well, if he knew anything about anything, the answer's gotta be yes, no? But, like Manuel of Barcelona the guy clearly knows nothing - nothiiing - about said nation or its PR machine - where, you can be sure, the champagne corks were popping like fireworks as soon as they knew they had the bugger in the bag. I mean, he's been on the planet for 60+ years but still doesn't know what's going down in the Middle East? Strewth! Then there's his bloody novels: Will my books be boycotted? What can I say? It's really all about number one now, isn't it?

OK, he's effectively demonstated his ignorance, but you really want to know why he's accepting this prize? "One reason [actually the only reason he gives] for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it." That's it! That's his reason for going to Jerusalem! "Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told... Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands. And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing." Oh, please! Not the 'I'm a novelist' routine again: I'm a novelist, so I tell lies, but they're not really lies... know what I mean? I'm a novelist, so I don't take advice. I remember at school when I was told to look both ways before I crossed the road, but dang it, I always ran across with my eyes closed, and I'm still alive to tell the tale, so there!

As I've said, quality crap. Cop this: "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg. Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be? What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning... each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is 'the System'. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and causes us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically."

Oh, the irony, the irony! Here's this scrambled egghead before an audience of eggs so rotten you can smell the sulphur dioxide in the air. Their armed forces in Gaza have just been cracking thousands of the world's most fragile eggs and making bloody omelletes of them, while just over the way, in the occupied West Bank, a "high, solid wall" is busy cutting some equally fragile eggs off from their land, their water, and their livelihoods. And, as he speaks, some of these fragile eggs are being chipped and even cracked trying to prevent this illegal structure from ruining their lives. All this and Murakami's babbling on about some abstraction he calls "the System" - as though it's something that just comes over us every now and then: Goodness me, I don't know what came over me! Ah yes, the System again! And, of course, this "System" thingie has absolutely nothing to do with the state which has paid for his airfares and accomodation and held him tight as yet another propaganda fig-leaf to hide its nakedness.

You like slapstick? How's this for a conclusion: "We must not allow the System to exploit us."

I swear, if ever this clown makes it to these shores, he should be greeted not with shoes, but eggs.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. To never read a man's work and then comment on him as a person. Idiot. Period. Or ignorant. Most likely both.

MERC said...

And Murakami? To know s.f.a. about what's been happening in Gaza and Palestine more generally, to receive the considered advice of those who do know and care (but to go out of sheer contrariness anyway), to stand with the prez on one side and the mayor on the other, and then to take money for it all? The only way he could redeem himself is to donate the prize money to the victims of Israel's Gaza genocide. Otherwise -while we're on the subject of idiocy - he's a moral idiot and nothing he's written so far detracts from that. Deeds, anon, not words

Anonymous said...

It must be wonderful to live in such a black and white world. I have no feelings toward what is happening in Gaza and Palestine other than to think that if everyone grew up a little they all might get along.
I'm amazed that you've got yourself inside Murakami's head. That's the only way you would know about the 'what's been happening in Gaza....' How did you get in there?
I understand this is a heated situation and that there are strong feelings on both sides, but if you look at his message, that he will always stand with the egg, then either you feel that Palestine is the wall or else he is on your 'side'.

MERC said...

Your 2nd sentence simply indicates ignorance of the issue.That's not a crime, but it gives you no right to opine that it's all about immaturity. Why not be honest and say you know nothing about it, so can't comment? As for getting inside Murakami's head, I've read his acceptance speech. Does that not furnish some insight into his thought processes? Eggs schmeggs, do you seriously believe that in the real world words count for more than actions? Is this the Murakami message? If so, why wonder why I dismiss him as a wanker? If not, please account for why his actions - lending real support to a vicious apartheid state - contradict his words?

Anonymous said...

Okay, then, go on hating Israel, anyone who visits Israel, anyone who thinks about Israel, &c. It seems to be working very well so far. I am not an Israel supporter. In fact I believe that it should never have been 'placed' where it was in the first place. Nevertheless, it's there and it's not going to go anywhere and it seems a better solution for people to try and work together than to hate one another. It's done no good for decades and I highly doubt hating another people will suddenly work wonders toward a peaceful solution. that's all. I will say no more.

MERC said...

You are an unbelievable dill. You haven't bothered to answer any of the matters I've raised. It's got nothing to do with 'hating Israel'. It's simply a matter of recognising that Israel was created at the expense of another people, refuses to acknowledge this, has for over 60 years now brutalised that people, and is currently positioning itself to destabilise the entire Middle East, making it a danger to world peace. As for Israel and the Palestinians trying to work together, this is akin to telling a rapist and his victim to sit down like civilised folk and talk their 'problem' through. International rapists will only respond, as in the case of Israel's forbear apartheid South Africa to an international campaign of boycotts, divestment, sanctions and general isolation. This is where Murakami comes in - you don't stand on the same platform as the rapist, babble on cryptically about eggs, provide him with yet another photo-op, take his money and go. You boycott him in the interests of his brutalised victim and use your boycott to speak out against one of the vilest and longest-running injustices of this and the last century. For God's sake, read up on the subject. David Hirst's history The Gun & the Olive Branch: the Roots of Middle East Violence would be as good place as any to start. Inane connents about trying harder just don't cut it. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

It must be very frustrating Merc no matter how hard you work now mater how many books you recommend your readers to read the facts on the grounds do not change.

Palestinains still fight amongst them selves, Palestinian Christians are still discriminated against,Palestinian still beg to the International community for money to purchase arms and for their leaders to stash away in European bank accounts and there is no likely hood of a Palestinian state any time soon.

My suggestion Merc take a holiday , maybe take up bridge or suduko to use your brain cells more productively ..

MERC said...

You still haven't attended that basic English literacy class have you? *Sigh*

Anonymous said...

Stay, Merc

You're doing a needed job. Anon 1, 2 & 3 may be merely ignorant. Easily fixed.

Anon 4 - probably no hope.

Murakami is a brilliant writer, by the way. If he is on the side of the egg, it is possibly similar to Fisk saying a journalist should always be on the side of the underdog. Possibly.

MERC said...

I'm sorry to labour this, but I can't see Fisk taking an Israeli award. If Murakami hasn't the moral and intellectual insight to see that going to Jerusalem, taking the award and running (money in hand) aids and abets the top dog, then he's a seriously flawed human being, however entertainingly he may move words around on paper. And if he thinks (as some do) that his silly egg & wall metaphor make up for what he's done, then he's fooling himself.

Anonymous said...

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20090302p2a00m0na005000c.html

An update. Where Murakami speaks of criticizing Israel. Not that it will likely change your opinion, but what the hell.

MERC said...

Thanks for that. Having read it, it only confirms my opinion of the man: "While he claimed to understand that Israel had its own logic and the fact that rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza, he explained that his main criticism lay in the 'excessive' military action carried out by Israel without regard to the great differences between the military strength of the two parties." Israel used disproportionate force, but proportionate force is OK. What insight! And he understands Israel's "logic". 'There, there, my poor little misunderstood Israel, I understand'. What empathy!

What a wanker!

Anonymous said...

YEH MERC I LOVE YOUR LOGIC YOU CAN FIGHT BACK BUT NOT TOO HARD

Anonymous said...

Sit there and take it, Israel. Is that what you're saying?

I hope you never come to any harm yourself, Merc. You never know when a stray one might make it's way to Australia. Keep fighting the good fight, from a thousand miles away.

MERC said...

"Sit there"? No way. Israel needs to get off its bum and implement ALL relevant UN resolutions. In the short term, it's got to negotiate a ceasefire agreement in good faith with the democratically elected government of Gaza and lift the blockade.

anon2 said...

Merc, this appeared in ynetnews.com on the 12 March, 2009

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3685218,00.html

Murakami slams Israel for treatment of Palestinians

MERC said...

Thanks so much for drawing my attention to that. I wonder if the backlash has prompted Murakami's article? I look forward to reading the original, but still think he needs to go further - hand back the award and money or tear it up publicly and donate the money to a Palestinian cause.

Anonymous said...

Merc,

What makes you think that the Arabs are in the right? How did you come to this conclusion? Was it reasoned? Maybe you made a mistake.

MERC said...

Is it really so hard to understand? I'm on the side of those getting their arses kicked, not those who do the kicking. Israel is a kick-arse state that pretends it isn't. Ben-Gurion didn't beat around the bush: "Were I an Arab, I would rebel even more vigorously, bitterly, and desperately against the immigration that will one day turn Palestine and all its Arab residents over to Jewish rule." There you have it: Zionism is a kick-arse ideology.

Anonymous said...

"I'm on the side of those getting their arses kicked, not those who do the kicking."

Isn't this effectively Murakami's message -- the same one you keep ridiculing as 'nonsense about eggs'?

M. Night Wilesalon said...

I agree with your point of view on the Isreali conflict. But I think you missed Murakami's point a bit. Yes he did stand with the prez and mayor but he called them both liars. Now, he also siad he was a liar but then went on to say novelists lie to tell the truth while politicians lie for other reasons. Also, to talk about a wall that humans are smashed against I think was a really powerful metaphor and quite anti isreali...i mean just because the Isreali press doesn't point it out doesn't mean that his sentiments weren't very critical of Isreal's war. I think if you took the time to read the man's work (I'm sure you won't, and probably wouldn't get it if you did) you would understand that he won't just come out and state his beliefs, he will tell a story and leave them to interpretation. That's what novelists do.