Wednesday, August 10, 2005

from Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

"Haydn was an enigmatic figure. Nobody really knows the amount of intense pathos he held inside him. In the feudal time he was born in, though, he was compelled to skillfully cloak his ego in submissiveness and display a smart, happy exterior. Otherwise he would have been crushed. A lot of people compare him unfavorably to Bach or Mozart––both his music and the way he lived. Over his long life he was innovative, to be sure, but never exactly on the cutting edge. But if you really pay attention as you listen, you can catch a hidden longing for the modern ego. Life a far-off echo full of contradictions, it's all there in Haydn's music, silently pulsating. Listen to that chord––hear it? It's very quiet––right?––but it has a persistent, inward-moving spirit that's filled with a pliant, youthful sort of curiosity."
"Like François Truffout's films."
"Exactly! the owner exclaimed happily, patting Hoshino's arm reflexively. "You've hit it right on the head. You find the same spirit animating Truffaut. A persistent, inward-moving spirit that's filled with a pliant, youthful sort of curiosity," he replied.
When the Haydn concerto was over Hoshino asked him to play the Rubinstein-Heifetz-Feuermann version of the Archduke Trio again. While listening to this, he again was lost in thought. Damn it, I don't care what happens, he finally decided. I'm going to follow Mr. Nakata as long as I live. To hell with the job!

This passage does a good job of presenting what simultaneously pleases and annoys me about Murakami's style, very generally speaking. There is more than a subtle whiff of "everything is profound" at times, couched albeit within a very likeable, sort of fatherly voice (a tone belonging to the characters and not necessarily the author, but when taken within the larger context of Murakami's ouevre, with its consistency of overlapping themes, emotional registers and logical progressions, not entirely or purely unbiographical either). What might this mean, for fiction to be a kind of autobiography? For the author's name itself to appear, in a sense, in every line she writes? These are questions that intrigue me, as they do Derrida among others. In a way, this tone of Murakami's seems true to the roots of a particular American reception of the existentialist wave that superstars in 60s France, which is ironic, of course, because Murakami is Japanese (though it helps explain, I thnk, why he translates so well). But as with Derrida, America as a concept, or perhaps 'America' as a place from which to look back on oneself with the necessary distance––where language itself is granted the possibility of this distance, for example the possibility to temporarily escape certain linguistically-embedded trappings of nationalism––this America would seem to be quite important for Murakami. Perhaps it is this America that is worth defending.

1 comment:

mjrmajor said...

This was perhaps my favorite passage in the entire novel. It was a climax of the tension between the "everything is profound" aspect that you mention versus the sheer absurdity of the characters, plot, etc that make the reader wonder if anything is meant to be taken seriously.
"Like François Truffout's films." is one of the funniest lines I've ever read in a book. I was laughing out loud for several minutes. I guess it's all in the context and who's delivering the line.

Murakami is an author that I don't try to analyze to deeply. Kafka on the Shore was a tremendously fun read, his best effor since Wind Up Bird, imo.

I stumbled upon your blog while trying to google up which Haydn CD might contain the song(s) that were playing in that scene in the book. Back to google.