barkat murakami 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel is not the egg.
Confused? This might be the only explanation we will ever hear from Japanese bestselling author Haruki Murakami - and in true Murakami style, even it will be somewhat vague.
Murakami on Sunday night defeated jetlag, political opposition and droves of photographers to accept the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society at the opening of the 24th Jerusalem International Book Fair held at Jerusalem's International Conference Center.
Flanked by President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, he took the prize with quiet poise. Then, alone on the podium and free of camera flashes, the author got down to business.
"So I have come to Jerusalem. I have a come as a novelist, that is - a spinner of lies.
"Novelists aren't the only ones who tell lies - politicians do (sorry, Mr. President) - and diplomats, too. But something distinguishes the novelists from the others. We aren't prosecuted for our lies: we are praised. And the bigger the lie, the more praise we get.
"The difference between our lies and their lies is that our lies help bring out the truth. It's hard to grasp the truth in its entirety - so we transfer it to the fictional realm. But first, we have to clarify where the truth lies within ourselves.
"Today, I will tell the truth. There are only a few days a year when I do not engage in telling lies. Today is one of them."
Murakami's novels are surreal and imaginative, often bordering on bizarre. Reading his books is like gazing at a Picasso: a certain detachment from normalcy is required so that the objects and events in Murakami's world can settle into their own logic.
But at the heart of each novel, standing in stark contrast to the logical chaos around him, is a very human, self-aware, humble soul-searching individual - and one whose internal struggles are the same as our own.
The panel that chose Murakami as its winner made its decision quickly and unanimously, citing Murakami's themes of universal humanism, love for humanity, and battles with existential questions that have no easy answers. But while the award panel debated little about who should receive this year's award, Murakami himself was torn about accepting it.
"When I was asked to accept this award," he said, "I was warned from coming here because of the fighting in Gaza. I asked myself: Is visiting Israel the proper thing to do? Will I be supporting one side?
"I gave it some thought. And I decided to come. Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I'm told. It's in my nature as a novelist. Novelists can't trust anything they haven't seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands. So I chose to see. I chose to speak here rather than say nothing.
"So here is what I have come to say."
And here Murakami left behind the persona of his main characters and took on the role of a marginal one (the lucid wisdoms in his novels tend to come from acquaintances of the protagonist), making a clear statement that left no room for reinterpretation. No time for ambiguity, this.
"If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.
"Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system" which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.
"I have only one purpose in writing novels," he continued, his voice as unobtrusive and penetrating as a conscience. "That is to draw out the unique divinity of the individual. To gratify uniqueness. To keep the system from tangling us. So - I write stories of life, love. Make people laugh and cry.
"We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs," he urged. "We have no hope against the wall: it's too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us - create who we are. It is we who created the system."
Murakami, his message delivered, closed by thanking his readership - a special thing indeed from a man who does not make a habit of accepting awards in person.
"I am grateful to you, Israelis, for reading my books. I hope we are sharing something meaningful. You are the biggest reason why I am here."