Monday, January 17, 2005

Kobe and Murakami

Today is the tenth anniversary of another earthquake - the one that struck the Japanese city of Kobe in 1995 - and is widely reported in the Japanese press here, here and here. Though obviously not on the scale of the recent catastrophe the casualities in Kobe were bad enough: more than 6,000 people were killed and 300,000 made homeless by the quake. As the BBC reports some survivors "said the horrific scenes following last month's tsunami in the Indian Ocean had brought back painful memories of their own loss and trauma". The psychological scars from the recent catastrophe will take a long, long time to heal.

One of the most moving testimonials to the shock of the Kobe earthquake is the collection of six short stories written by Haruki Murakami, one of the truly great novelists of our age. Murakami's parents' house was destroyed in the earthquake but he wasn't in the city at the time. Each of the protagonists of the stories in After The Quake is someone who was absent but whose life has been deeply disturbed by the event. Murakami is not so much interested in what causes earthquakes but with the emotional effects they have on people - the metaphorical rather than the literal underground connections.

My favourite story is the last in the collection - "Honey Pie". In less than thirty pages it tells the tale of a short-story writer who has spent years as the weakest link in a love triangle and now finds himself in the position to claim the woman (and child) he loves. The story concludes with this lovely paragraph:
I want to write stories that are different from the ones I've written so far [the writer thinks]. I want to write about people who dream and wait for the night to end, who long for the light so they can hold the ones they love. But right now I have to stay here and keep watch over this woman and this girl. I will never let anyone - not anyone - try to put them into that crazy box - not even if the sky should fall or the earth crack open with a roar.
Once I used to read that story to a friend. I hope she remembers sometimes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange, like the author, I wanted to write stories that are different from the ones I have written. But unlike him, I wanted to write about those who don’t dream and don’t wait for the night to end – dreaming is painful, it makes things appear real and waiting for the night to end is the deepest dark to be in. I cannot understand the longing for light just so you can hold the ones you love. The ones I love live within darkness and that is when I can hold them most. And just like the author, I too have to remain where I am, to watch over this woman and girl and not let anyone put her into the crazy box. But how do i keep watch of this person i love when sanity to her is so pale in comparison to life's madness, which she adores - that sanity rips her love for living?

Like you, I used to read many stories to a friend, but only in my mind. And he, he wouldn’t remember.


7:05 pm  

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