Murakami and the Celebration of Community

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Author: Andrew J. Wilson
Email: awilson@harpercollege.edu
Published: November 30, 2017
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.6.1.03

Citation: Wilson, A. J. (2017). Murakami and the Celebration of Community. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 6(3). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.6.1.03


Abstract

In An Account of My Hut, a 13th-century classic of Japanese literature, Kamo no Chōmei honors the Buddhist practice of non-attachment, of stripping down to the basics and releasing one’s illusions that physical comforts, especially a large home with servants and multiple rooms, will bring permanent happiness. Whirlwinds and earthquakes remind Chōmei of the fragility of the world, and in beautiful prose he tells of his retreat from the planet’s material lures. At last, at the age of 60, he leaves virtually everything and everyone behind to build a simple mountainside hut, a human “cocoon,” a place where he is less afraid to face unpredictable natural disasters and a constant lack of solidity. He asks for nothing; nor does he want for anything. Centuries later, another great Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, also offers counsel to a nation in the wake of disaster, the earthquake that struck the city of Kobe in 1995, killing over 6000 human beings. Though it is fiction, Murakami’s After the Quake is as well an attempt to provide real-life Japanese with a way forward, though his argument seems contrary to Chōmei’s sense that since nothing beneath our feet is solid, all must be forsaken. In fact, Murakami worries that Japan has lived for far too long in the Chōmei-like spirit of distrust (however understandable) and isolation; he counsels a new beginning, one steeped in the hope of community and in the beauty of family.

Keywords

Chōmei, earthquake, family, Japan, Murakami, trauma