Prized possessions

By: Editorial | Updated: September 18, 2018 12:35:35 am

Thanks but no thanks, Murakami said too in a cryptic response to his nomination.

Thanks but no thanks, Murakami said too in a cryptic response to his nomination.

The strangest of things happen in Haruki Murakami’s novels. But by reality’s dreary, monotonous standards, this is pretty radical too — an internationally acclaimed writer, at the top of his game, has just declined to take part in a major literary prize. One thought such spirited displays of independence had been outlawed by the marketing machine. Murakami just proved us wrong.

The Japanese writer, who is always in the reckoning for the Nobel for literature, has just withdrawn his name from the “alternative” Nobel prize. Allegations of sexual misconduct earlier this year led to the scrapping of the original literature prize awarded by the Swedish Academy, which promised to make up by announcing twin winners in 2019. The New Academy Prize was set up by Swedish intellectuals to keep the banner of high literature flying. It promised to be the Schrodinger’s Nobel: There, but not quite.

Thanks but no thanks, Murakami said too in a cryptic response to his nomination. He would rather concentrate on his writing than be distracted by “media attention”. For his readers, that’s good news. The Murakami universe is weird and wonderful, and full of creative disruptions that confound ideas of real and surreal. It takes talent and flair, but also rigorous practice and doggedness, a daily immersion inside the human mind to create those deceptively simple worlds. Like Tsukuru in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, who builds and designs railroads to keep himself sane, Murakami needs all the time in the world to craft the delicate architecture of his novels. But, most of all, his gesture is, perhaps, a cue for the business of scorekeeping that literary appreciation often turns into. What’s a writer without his prizes? The sum of his books, the breadth of his readership. In Murakami’s case, that’s a rich bounty. With or without a Nobel.

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