Random perspectives on Haruki Murakami

“The dissociation of the world into two sides is a theme which can be seen in many novels of Murakami. In the novel Dance, Dance, Dance, there is another world on the other side of the wall or in the other hotel. In Hard-boiled Wonderland and the end of the World and Kafka on the Shore, two different parallel stories go on; in one chapter one story, in the next chapter the other one. the other world has the clear implication of a mythological world, the world of Gods and of the dead. The connection to and dissociation from the other side is an important theme in Murakami’s novels. /…/
Something essential is lacking and is probably on the other side. Because of the missing essential, this side is not complete; literature, music, and love are not true. And reality, as such, is not complete. /…/ One can think of this as the cultural complex that Murakami is exploring. /…/
So there is a meaningful but sexless relationship on one side and a meaningless sexual relationship on the other side. This dissociation might be reflected in modern Japanese society where teenaged prostitutes and couples in sexless relationships are often reported.
According to Murakami’s novels it is typical for postmodern consciousness in Japan that there is still a sense of lack and longing for what is lost. /…/ The Japanese soul is still between postmodern consciousness and the list mythological world. This dissociation is possible bevause modern consciousness, in the Western sense, has never been established in Japan. /…/ In many ways, Murakami’s novels and the postmodern consciousness of his characters reflext the emergence of a cultural complex in the Japanese collective psyche. /…/
It is probably a misunderstanding to try to overcome the dissociation and find literal union again. As Jung says, we should not try to overcome the dissociation, but to be thaught by it. /…/
If negation and dissociation are dominant, how can people be connected? In this novel, phone calls and letters are important. In other novels or Murakami, the computer plays an important role. It is not the problem of media to be understood. The point is that there is no directness.”

Toshio Kawai: ‘Postmodern consciousness in the novels of Haruki Murakami’. In The. Cultural Complex, eds. T. Singer & S. Kimbles. London: Routledge. Murakami, H. (2000).

“It was demonstrated in an earlier chapter that the vexed question of Japanese modernity turns on the problem of an inadequately defined subject and subjectivity. /…/
In Nejimakidori, Murakami has utilized three versions or aspects of the sublime in order to deal with the complex issue of referentiality in such a way as to not foreclose new ways of thinking about the subject of/in Japanese modernity. These three versions can be described, in broad terms, as the ‘psychoanalytic sublime’, the ‘historical sublime’ and the ‘political sublime’, and it will be demonstrated that the major narrative strands of Nejimakidori variously employ one or more of these. Each of these versions of the sublime indicates and engagement with the problem of ‘presenting the unpresentable’ as a disjunctive modality of the simultaneous affirmation and negation of the subject, whereby the limits of such subjectivity remain uncertain and tentative.
In narrative terms, these aspects of the sublime are integrated through the discursive trope of irony proposed by White, and assume their apotheosis in the figure of Wataya Noboru, where their threat to subjectivity is expressed in terms of an incommensurability in the modalities of presentation of that which cannot be directly presented – ultimately, that is, in the form of what Lyotard has termed the ‘differend’. /…/
we nevertheless cannot ignore the subject of Japanese modernity in terms of a tendency towards a system of pervasive, ongoing ‘fascism’ in the post-was system of political and economic practices and structures, aptly described by Miyoshi and Harootunian under the rubric of the term ’emperorism’. Nejimakidori is implicitly concerned with all of these issues, and this fact is justification enough to make it a text worthy of serious critical attention. /…/
The aspects of the sublime with which we will be working in these chapters are based primarily on Kant’s discussion of the sublime /…/, as well as on Hayden White’s ‘historical sublime’ and Lyotard’s re-reading of the Kantian sublime and subsequent invocation of a form of ‘political sublime’. /…/

in our discussion of Nejimakidori we are faced with a consideration of whether it is possible (or indeed desirable) to reconcile three seemingly irreconcilable perspectives on the nature of historu:
(i) History is a recuperable, representable reality which can be spoken and written.
(ii) History is simulacral – it arises merely as an effect of speaking and writing, and is not co-extensive with any referent.
(iii) History inheres only in the unutterable aporia of meaning/sense, arrayed between memory, thought, speech and writing.
Clearly, these competing views on the nature of history are related to the question of subjectivity and Japanese modernity, and turn on the possibility of being able to stipulate history-as-subject, or, alternatively, the subject in/of history. The first proposition incorporates what have been broadly described as ‘reconstructionist’ (empiricist) and ‘constructionist’ (‘social theory’) forms of history. The second and third propositions are somewhat complementary, and indicatice of what can be described as a ‘post-structuralist- view of history. /…/

“The opening passage of Nejimakidori, with its cacophony of sound-images – boiling water, whistling, ringing telephone, and radio broadcast – sets a remarkably ‘auditory’ mood for the presented world of the novel. It also helps establish the physicality, the marked corporeality of many of the protagonist’s narrated experiences. /…/
In Nejimakidori, there is no doubt that the focus on the auditory sense broadens the range of interpretative possibilities of the work as fictional art. /…/ The central trope of the mysterious, screeching cry of the unseen ‘wind-up’ bird which marks out ‘individual’ and ‘historical’ time and is often heard by characteers in the in-between state of dreaming and waking, consciousness and unconsciousness, is one of the most obvious examples here, but there are various episodes throughout the novel in which specifically auditory hallucinations and images figure. /…/
In terms of the social dimension, Koizumi suggests that in Nejimakidori Murakami is conducting an original and sustained critique of the hegemony of the visual in contemporary Japanese culture. /…/ stridently ‘anti-mass media’, ‘anti-televisual’ – in short, anti-visual /…/
This critique of the visual exposes the myth of Japan as the ‘information society’ (jôhô shakai) which emerged in the eighties, and is clearly connoted in the figure of the thirty-year-old unemployed Boku whose life is effectively in moratorium mode – he neither watches television nor reads newspapers – and is connected to the outside world only through the auditory modality of the telephone.
In stark contrast to this, claims Koizumi, the figure of Wataya Noboru, the consummate political performer and ‘television man’, violates Kanô Kureta [Kreta Kano] through an ‘act of seeing’ – and this is part of a larger, generalized violence of the visual that permeates and controls every corner of contemporary daily Japanese life. /…/
taking as our starting point the basic fact of the sign as being comprised of an audio-image (signifier) and a visual-image (signified), we are left to ponder the implication of how the privileging of the auditory over the visual might prescribe the range of subject positions available to the reader of Nejimakidori. /…/
Freud acknowledge that although in dreams we do ‘make use of auditory images’, in these non-waking states ‘we think predominantly in visual images’. So there is, in terms of the Freudian system, a clear distinction between the visual and audio in relation to the unconscious. /…/
From this it can be surmised that if we could identify a strong opposition between the audio and the visual as dominant narrative tropes or modalities in Nejimakidori, we could extrapolate from the reading of that text an implied threat to the Lacanian symbolic order, which suggests a movement back to the presymbolic stage of the imaginary and the undifferentiated self-perception of the subject, in a way not dissimilar to – and even indicative of – the moment of the subject just prior to abjection. It will be argued later that this is perhaps one of the effects of the privileging of the auditory: to indicate a potential dissolution of the presented Oedipal configuration in Nejimakidori, constructed around the figure of Wataya Noboru.”

Michael Seats: “Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture”