The Notion of Maternity during the Lost Decade of Japan through Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

As the winter vacation is coming to an end, I am leaving three hectic months behind with a need for some rest. Busy schedule that started with the job hunting process and full of lots of paperwork and bureaucracy has ended on the most beautiful note with this paper coming into existence despite all the odds against it! The moment I saw my laptop showered with coffee at Starbucks today, I had a little bit of a heart attack. However, it is safely here! 🙂  It still has a way to go, and I need to improve it, but it will help me go through the upcoming conference 🙂

In “The Unfinished Cartography: Murakami Haruki and the Postmodern Cognitive Map,” Chiyoko Kawakami untangles the gap between Murakami and the postwar junbungaku not so much in view of Murakami’s reluctance to adopt a critical stance on the Japanese social scene. Alternately, she deciphers the long-debated polarity in respect of non-representational form of power being portrayed in Murakami’s works in contrast to “the discursive practice of social struggle” prevailing in postwar junbungaku: “Murakami depicts the problematic and incompletely conceptualized relationships between the individual and society in the radically changing social climates of postmodern Japan, where “authority” has ceased to present itself as a unified ideological entity” (310).

Following Kawakami’s viewpoint, I argue that Jean Baudrillard’s theory of consumerism allows for a thorough understanding of manifestation of non-representational power structure in The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. His theory is firmly engrained in his analysis of power as a non-representational entity regulating the relationship between the individual and society by way of dissemination and exhaustion of concepts such as family, leisure and so on. Baudrillard, in other words, scrutinizes a concept such as family, very often confined to the peripheries of home and/or private space, as a consumer object through which various values and standards are compromised in view of the changing political economy. Among the most renowned values and standards being conferred under the aegis of family one can indubitably find the notion of maternity.

Correspondingly, this paper examines the ways in which Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle witnesses the altering status of the maternity in view of economic destabilization during the lost decade of Japan in connection with Baudrillard’s theory of consumerism. By alluding to the altering status of the notion of maternity, I argue that the protagonist’s attempt to emancipate his wife from his brother-in-law Noboru Wataya’s fetters is symptomatic of his nonconformity to the hegemonic masculine identity and his individual struggle. Following the years marked by economic instability, the notion of maternity, putatively separated from the capitalist production, was denounced as a constituent of self-indulgence and consumer culture. The home (maternal domain), once associated both with consumption and frugality owing to household saving rates and purchase of recommended consumer durables, lost its paradigmatic status. By contrast, a discourse associated with respect for hard-working fathers and capitalist economic expansion gained popularity in the 1990s, as Tomiko Yoda explains in “The Rise and Fall of Maternal Society: Gender, Labor, and Capital in Contemporary Japan.” Continue reading

Update!

Good and Bad News!

This morning, my “Wonderland Essay” received the formal offer of publication and it will be published in IAFOR’s journal of literature and librarianship in November, 2015. Due to publishing and copyrights, I have to remove the article from this page. As soon as it is published, I will announce it here and provide the links to the article! 🙂

A Very Useful Guidance to the Harukist World

A Very Useful Guidance to the Harukist World

Harukmurakami and strecher imagei Murakami's The Wind-Up 
Bird Chronicle by Matthew Strecher
Published by Continuum Contemporaries 
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book

I have been long working on a paper for the upcoming conference, Librasia 2015, which will be held in Osaka next week, so I could not manage to find the time to sit down and write a review here. The other day, while I was in a bookshop, I came across a very good source for my dissertation. I also thought that it might be an excellent guidance for those who are not so familiar with the Haruki Murakami world and want to make a better sense of his characters and use of surreal etc. This critical work written by Matthew Strecher, one of the major Murakami critics in the West, is titled Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It is a very short critical work composed of only 96 pages and, as the title suggests itself, it mainly focuses on one of the major Murakami works, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Divided into five main chapters, Strecher first starts with a brief biography of Haruki Murakami and informs his readers into what sort of age Murakami was born in terms of both literary writing and political events. By drawing a parallel line between the political uprisings such as the student movement of 1960s, Strecher points out the particularities from which Murakami’s writing style and character portrayal arise. Strecher, who describes the transition from a politically active period to a period reigned by a sense of loss and confusion as one of the reasons concerning the change in the Japanese literary scene, continues with the analysis of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in the second chapter. He explores themes such as sexuality and the ‘other’, the function of oracle, the significance of the well and mark on the face of the protagonist as well as the war memories of the characters and so on. In the third chapter, Strecher in a sense replies the questions of many readers who are confused about Murakami’s endings in his novels in general by referring to both Western and Japanese critics and their ideas on The Wind-Up Bird. Strecher who, touches upon the performance of the novel in the fourth chapter, concludes this brief critical work with a chapter focusing on possible further reading materials and questions as well as useful websites for those who want to discover the Harukist world more. Continue reading

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Review

tsukuruColourless Tsukuru Tazaki and
His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Published by Harvill Secker
Format: Hardcover
Sources: Publisher
Buy the Book

On August 24, 2014 in the Guardian’s book blog, Marta Bausell wrote about the questions of Murakami’s readers and how the writer responded those questions in the Edinburgh Book Festival. Among those questions, there is one that particularly attracted my attention. Bausell noted down that Murakami was asked why most of his characters are so sad. According to Bausell’s account, Murakami, who was indeed astounded by the question, answered, “I have no intention to write about sad characters” (Murakami qtd. in Bausell). As a matter of fact, unlike this reader mentioned by Bausell, I have also never thought that Murakami’s characters are sad. On the contrary, I have always felt that they are usually so passive – in the sense that they would not take any action so long as they are not pushed for it – that his characters cannot be so sad. Or, even if they are ready to take an action as in the case Toru Okada, the protagonist of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to restore his marriage, his sadness does not amount to a level, which would render him as a depressed or gloomy man. Therefore, I would not necessarily consider his characters to be sad in general.

While this may hold true for most of his novels and short-fiction, Tsukuru Tazaki of Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, if I am not mistaken, is his first protagonist, who genuinely wishes to die. Whether it is mere sadness or just emptiness he feels inside triggers his wish to die it is upon readers to decide. Yet, as the very opening of the novel demonstrates it clearly, Tsukuru has a very strong desire to die: “If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life” (Murakami 1). Despite the fact that death has such a strong hold on Tsukuru, he does not commit suicide. This is “… because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death” (Murakami 1). Continue reading

Dance Dance Dance

What’s Your Favourite Dance Dance Dance Quote?

dance dance picDance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
Published by Vintage
Format: Paperback
Pages: 393
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book

“It is out of your hands, kid. Whatever you may be thinking, you can’t resist. The story’s already decided” (6).

“The Dolphin Hotel, such that I was seeking, no longer existed. It didn’t matter what it was I was looking for, the place was no more. And not merely gone, it’d been replaced by this idiotic Star Wars high-tech hotel-a-thon. I was too late” (30-31).

“Latter-day capitalism. Like it or not, it’s the society we live in. Even the standard of right and wrong has been subdivided, made sophisticated. Within good, there’s fashionable good and unfashionable good, and ditto for bad. Within fashionable good, there’s formal and then there’s casual; there’s hip, there’s cool, there’s trendy, there’s snobbish. Mix ‘n’ match. Like pulling on a Missoni sweater over Trussardi slacks and Pollini shoes, you can now enjoy hybrid styles of morality. It’s the way of the world – philosophy starting to look more and more like business and administration” (55). Continue reading

Wonderland Essay

Good and Bad News!

This morning, my “Wonderland Essay” received the formal offer of publication and it will be published in IAFOR’s journal of literature and librarianship in November, 2015. Due to publishing and copyrights, I have to remove the article from this page. As soon as it is published, I will announce it here and provide the links to the article! 🙂

Favourite Quotes

My Favourite Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Quotes

Hard Boiled Wonderland and 
the End of the World by Haruki Murakami 
Published by Vintage Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher 
Buy the book

“In the middle of the North Plaza stands a large Clock-tower piercing skyward. To be precise, one should say it is less a clocktower than an object retaining the form of a clocktower. The clock has long forfeited its original role as a timepiece.” (37-38)

“All the doors are sealed tight; no one is seen entering or leaving. Here, is this a post office for dead letters? This, a mining firm that engages no miners? This, a crematorium without corpses to burn?” (38)

“An expensive automobile may well be worth its price, but it’s only an expensive automobile. If you have the money, you can buy it, anyone can buy it. Procuring a good sofa, on the other hand, requires style and experience and philosophy. It takes money, yes, but you also need a vision of the superior sofa. That sofa among sofas.” (45)

“I wasn’t particularly afraid of death itself. As Shakespeare said, die this year and you don’t have to die the next. All quite simple, if you want to look at it that way. Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s my own to fool with. Hence I can live with it. But after I’m dead, can’t I just lie in peace? Those Egyptian pharoahs had a point, wanting to shut themselves up inside pyramids.” (51) Continue reading