Friday, February 20, 2009

Utterly lame, Mr. Murakami

Earlier this week, the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami went to the so-called Jersualem International Book Fair in so-called Israel, which is actually nothing more nor less than occupied Palestine, to accept the so-called, get this, Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society. This is so sad and awful on so many levels it's hard to know what to be more appalled at. The horror of holding a book fair, posing as a celebration of freedom of the arts, in occupied Jerusalem? The name of the prize, which I would have assumed was a parody coming as it does from one of the least free, most racist, repressive societies on the planet, if I didn't know it was for real? Or the fact that Murakami accepted it, and in person?

In an open letter to Murakami issued just before he went to Jerusalem, the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel appealed to him to "Please turn your attention to the Palestinians, who are being denied their freedom and dignity as human beings." He did not do so, despite also receiving such requests from Palestinian and Japanese groups.

Instead he not only accepted the award, he gave an appalling talk trying to justify himself. Salon, posting it, characterizes it as a "powerful speech." In what universe? By my read, Harukami's ramble is an illucid effort at rationalizing what he's now become, an artist who aligns himself with the oppressor. He can blah blah blah all he likes about 'we writers are rebels and if someone tells us not to do something we must do it,' but this is meaningless posing, posturing, and it just doesn't fly. He can talk about eggs and walls and claim to side with those who'd tear down walls, but saying it as he did from within the embrace of the wall erectors, it just won't wash. He's taken a side, and it's the wrong side. He's given legitimacy to the occupiers. He can't nimble-tongue it away.

I haven't liked any of his books since The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.