Murakami Haruki and the historical memory of East Asia
ABSTRACT In this article, I would like to focus on an analysis of internal logic of the “Haruki phenomenon” as a symptom in current East Asian public culture. Particularly, I will discuss how Haruki searches for the healing method for the “60s complex” among Japan’s “Sixty’s Kids,” including Haruki himself, through an analysis of his novels Norwegian Wood (2000) and Kafka on the Shore (2005). In the process of analysis, we can witness that Haruki abandoned his task of “reconciliation with the 1960s” through faith, rather than facing it directly, and finally stripped the 1960s of historicity and reality. He regarded the “reconciliation with the 1960s” as something beyond an individual’s ability. Transforming the 1960s from a history of postwar Japan into an object of abstract and universal nostalgia, which is closed to the present, Haruki effectively met the latent desire of the East Asian people, who were experiencing the dissolution of their ideologies, at the right time. This is the essence of the Haruki phenomenon that emerged in East Asia over the last decade. I use the phrase “nostalgia that lost its nationality” to describe the uncanny cultural phenomenon of East Asian readers longing for the 1960s pictured in Haruki’s novels as if this were their own past, despite their very different national memories. Nostalgia, a cultural symptom of the postmodern society where remembering the nation’s past totally is impossible, is a blank imitation deprived of its original source. In short, the substance of the Haruki phenomenon is nostalgia that developed from a desire to forget the traumatic memories of the national histories in individual East Asian countries.
KEYWORDS: Murakami Haruki, national memories, nostalgia, postmodernism, Bildungsroman, reconciliation, East Asia, Cultural Revolution, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood
Jiwoon Baik is research professor at Center for Korean Studies, InhaUniversity in Korea. She earned her PhD degree at YonseiUniversity in 2003 with a dissertation on Liang Qichao’s enlightenment thought and Chinese modernity discourse. Recently her research interest includes comparative studies of modern literature and culture of East Asia. She is a member of the editorial staff of The Quarterly Changbi.