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Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Haruki Murakami has said that he will address issues of Japanese nationalism in his next novel. The Guardian reports comments the author made to the South China Morning Post (an English-language paper based in Hong Kong). On Shintaro Ishihara, the right-wing governor of Tokyo:

"He's an agitator," Murakami reportedly said. "He hates China."

In Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman there is a story which became part of Norwegian Wood about a young student living in a dormitory in Tokyo. The Japanese flag is raised and lowered every day, at dawn and at dusk, in the grassed area between the dorm buildings. But the narrator's mild scepticism lies a long way from Murakami's personal loathing of fanatical nationalism.

The writer's new vigour in the face of a detestable trend in modern Japan represents a move toward engaging in public discourse in a way that more closely approximates that of other, more traditional Japanese men of letters. This would represent a change of direction for the reclusive author. But the message Murakami is brandishing is at odds with that purveyed by the majority of Japanese writers, and they may be dismayed at what is happening.

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