As an unrealistic dreamer by Murakami Haruki (1/4) International Catalunya Prize speech at 2011-06-11

Here is a complete English translation of Murakami Haruki's International Catalunya Prize speech at 2011-06-11, part 1/4. This is not an official translationPlease tell me if you believe there are any legal issues in my distribution of a translation, though I believe this is one of the stories that we all can share.

Here is also related German article from Asienspiegel

The last time I visited Barcelona was spring two years ago. When I had an autograph session here, many people came and I could not finish the session in one and a half hours. Why did it take so long? Because many of the female readers asked me to kiss them.

I have had autograph sessions in many countries, though it is only in Barcelona that female readers asked me for a kiss. Even from this one example, we know how great the city of Barcelona is. I am very happy that I can come back to this beautiful and culturally rich city that has such a long history.

Unfortunately, I cannot talk about the kissing story today. I should talk about a little more serious topic.

As you may know, on March 11th, at 14:46, there was a large earthquake in the Tohoku area of Japan. The earthquake was so powerful that the revolution speed of the earth became a bit faster, making the day almost 1.8-millionths of a second shorter.

The damage of the earthquake itself was huge, but the tsunami after the earthquake also devastated the land. The tsunami reached 39 meters in height at some places. Thirty-nine meters in height means that if someone could run up to the tenth floor of a normal build, they still could not survive. People near the shore had no time to run away. Around 24,000 people were  Around 24,000 people were victims and out of those 9,000 are still missing. Most of them might still be under the cold sea. When I think about it, when I imagine that I could have been one of them, I am deeply distressed. Even many survivors lost their family and friends, lost their home and property, lost their community, lost their basis of living. Some of the cities or villages were completely swept away. The hope in many people lives is simply gone.

It seems to me that being Japanese means living together with many natural disasters. Most parts of Japan are in the paths of typhoons from summer to autumn. Every year we have huge damages; we always lose many lives. There are many active volcanoes all over Japan. There are 108 active volcanoes in Japan today. And of course, earthquakes. The Japanese archipelago sits precariously on the four large plates at the edge of the east Asian continent. We are, so to speak, living in a nest of earthquakes.

We can estimate the path and arrival time of a typhoon to some extent, but we cannot predict when an earthquake will come. But we are sure of one thing: this is not the end. There will be another large earthquake in the near future. Many seismologists expect an earthquake of magnitude 8 near Tokyo in the next 20 to 30 years. It might be the next year, or tomorrow afternoon.

Nevertheless, all 13 million people just in the city of Tokyo, now have a normal life again. People still commute by crowded trains. People still work in skyscrapers. I never heard anyone say that the population of Tokyo decreased after the earthquake.

"Why?" you may ask us. "Why do so many people live in such a horrible place? How can so many people have a normal life there now?"

Japanese has a word: ``無常 (mujo)''. Everything born into this world will vanish sooner or later, never staying in one state, and is constantly changing its form. There is neither eternal stability nor unchanging immortality. Although this world view of ``mujo'' comes from Buddhism, we inherited it in a different context than from a religion. The idea of ``mujo'' is burned into the Japanese mind and has almost always been the same, from ancient times to today.

``Everything is just gone'' is the kind of world view in which you just give up. This can become the idea that ``a human being is powerless against nature.'' But the Japanese have found a positive way of seeing beauty in a view that seems like giving up.

When we talk about the nature, for instance, we enjoy cherry blossoms in the spring, we enjoy fireflies in the summer, and we enjoy colored leaves in the fall. We do it collectively and habitually. We appreciate it as a self-evident thing to do. The famous sights of the cherry blossoms, the fireflies, and the colored leaves are all crowded during their seasons. It is difficult to book hotels during those seasons.

Why is that?


poko said...




Shitohichi said...

poko 様,感想をありがとうございます.

本 Blog での part 4, Supplement by the translator で述べておりますが,村上氏の発言に関しては 2 つの異なるバージョンがあります.毎日新聞の全文というものと,ANN のノーカット版とあるニュースビデオです.ご指摘の文は,毎日新聞の全文には掲載されていましたが,ビデオでは村上氏はそのような発言をされておりません.我々が翻訳するにあたってどのテキストを使うかという問題がありましたが,補足で述べておりますように私達は村上氏の発言を選択いたしました.ご了承下さい.