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

Advertisements

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Quotes

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Quotes

These days, I am writing the second chapter of my dissertation and it is about Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. While I am at it, I also wanted to share some quotes I like in the novel 🙂

  • birdbird
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami
    Published by Vintage Books
    Format: Paperback
    Pages:607
    Source: Publisher
    Buy the Book
  • “Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understand another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”
  • “‘No flow now,” Mr Honda said, nodding to himself. “Now’s the time to stay still. Don’t do anything. Just be careful of water. Sometime in the future, this young fellow could experience real suffering in connection with water. Water that’s missing from where it’s supposed to be. Water that’s present where it’s not supposed to be. In any case, be very, very careful of water”’
  • “‘When you sneak into somebody’s backyard, it does seem that guts and curiosity are working together. Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiosity evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiosity’s like an amusing friend you can’t really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own—with whatever guts you can muster”’
  • “‘When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom”’
  • “Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade”
  • “I realize full well how hard it must be to go on living alone in a place from which someone has left you, but there is nothing so cruel in this world as the desolation of having nothing to hope for.”
  • “I am not so weird to me”

Continue reading

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Review

birdbird

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami
Published by Vintage Books
Format: Paperback
Pages:607
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book

Not so infrequently critiques, either Japanese or Western, have associated Murakami’s works both stylistically and thematically to Western writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Don DeLillo and many others. By doing so, Murakami, while to a certain extent being denied an original voice, has been very often positioned as a writer indulging himself in the Western canon as opposed to his Japanese contemporaries who are dealing with the notion of Japaneseness. On the surface, such a view can be considered to hold some truth as Western references such as music, food, books, philosophy and so on occupy a great space in his works. However, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is irrefutably more Japanese than Western, if such a division of any literary work can/should be done. Perhaps, with its references to the Second World War Japan and the post-war Japanese politics and economy deals more openly with Japan and Japaneseness than any other of his works.

This voluminous work of Murakami is about a man called Toru Okada and fall of his marriage soon after his cat bearing the same name with his brother-in-law, Noboru Wataya, gets lost. Actually, everything starts with a strange phone call from a woman who claims to know Toru Okada. Although Okada cannot seem to recognize the voice of this mysterious woman, the phone call can be regarded as a foreshadowing concerning his wife and marriage. In addition to the strange phone calls, the novel surrounds itself around curious objects such as a cat, a mysterious house and a dried-up well as well as intriguing characters with their life stories somehow linked to the Second World War. These interesting characters and curious objects all together add up to the typical and magically surreal world of Murakami. Those who expect to find a surreal world as lavish as The Kafka on the Shore, unfortunately there is no fish raining from the sky. Yet, alternatively you may take a siesta at the bottom of a well if you fancy.
Continue reading