#AtoZChallenge: April 16, 2013 ~ Naoko

norwegian_wood_by_himekavya-d3hn542 “It takes time, though, for Naoko’s face to appear.  And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer.  The sad truth is that what I could recall  in 5 seconds all too soon needed ten, then 30, then a full minute – like shadows lengthening at dusk.  Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness.”

So speaks Toru, the narrator of Norwegian Wood, Haruki’s Murakami’s immortal love story.  This harrowing tale of desire, impossible love and loss lingers forever in the reader’s memory: what could have been, the search for reasons, the desperate hope.  This is a romantic heroine, doomed, condemned to a personal hell: “Don’t you see? It’s just not possible for one person to watch over another person forever and ever.  I mean, suppose we got married. You’d have to work during the day.  Who’s going to watch over me while you’re away?”  As for him, Toru, there will be no peace, those fleeing memories do not reduce the pain, so there is only one choice:

“Once, long ago, when I was still young, when the memories were far more vivid than they are now, I often tried to write about her.  But I couldn’t produce a line… Now, though, I realize that all I can place in the imperfect vessel of writing are imperfect memories and imperfect thoughts.”

The thought of Naoko, for us who have met her only in the book, fills us also with an unbearable sorrow.  So is the power of great literature.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/06/winter-reads-norwegian-wood-haruki-murakami

#AtoZChallenge: April 11, 2013 ~ Japan

Byôdô-in When I was a very young man, a boy still really, I imagined Japan as a beautiful and mysterious – hence unattainable – woman.  For at that age, one looks at countries one has not visited, let alone lived in, as one does those unfathomable creatures of the opposite gender, with a sense of wonder.

Assiduously I frequented the local dojo, which was run by the departmental GPO, in that far away antiquity before those marvellous public organisations were “privatised”, that is plundered, and perfected my throws.

I thought of the 1,800 islands Japan is made of, learnt about the Way of the Warrior –  the Bushido – admired films of kids of my age practising Kendo the way we kicked the ball at my school.  Then I learnt about the long history of a sea-faring and proud people who kept their country closed to the rest of the world for centuries. I learnt about the Tsunamis,  Mount Fuji, the bombs, the geography. I dreamed of Shikoku, the island of the 88 temples, of the mysteries of Kyoto, the imperial city, of the hero-Samurais, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, of the art and magic of the swordsmiths.  I even considered buying myself a Katana…

Katana Then I learned about Seppuku, read Mishima.  One of my judo coaches was a Vietnamese expert who had studied at the Kodokan: I resolved to go there, sometime.

Much later I discovered Haruki Murakami who wrote – still writes – like a Westerner with the elegance and poetry of his country.  And I fell in love – metaphorically – with Naoko (Norwegian Wood), Miss Saeki (Kafka on the Shore) and Naomame (1Q84)…

Japan is the third largest world economy by GDP, and the sixth military power by budget.  After Singapore she has the lowest homicide rate in the world.

Next year – 2014, or 1Q84 plus 30 years – Gorgeous and I are going to Japan, and she said she would come with me to the Kodokan, provided I visited the 88 temples of Shikoku with her, which I promised.  We will look for the second moon.