One of my students brought this to class today for me to read.  Haruki Murakami is an internationally acclaimed Japanese novelist and one of my personal favorites.  This moving speech succinctly expresses themes that I’ve been pondering quite a lot recently. He only briefly mentions the recent “war” in Gaza but uses it as a springboard to address the larger, more profound motifs underlying such struggles and hardships. I, too, support the egg. The speech was given in English; I assume that this translation was done by the person whose blog I borrowed this from. If you can read Japanese please check it out:

Enjoy.  –A




Always on the side of the egg参照
By Haruki Murakami


I have come to Jerusalem today as a novelist, which is to say as a professional spinner of lies.


Of course, novelists are not the only ones who tell lies. Politicians do it, too, as we all know. Diplomats and military men tell their own kinds of lies on occasion, as do used car salesmen, butchers and builders. The lies of novelists differ from others, however, in that no one criticizes the novelist as immoral for telling them. Indeed, the bigger and better his lies and the more ingeniously he creates them, the more he is likely to be praised by the public and the critics. Why should that be?

もちろん、小説家だけがホラ吹きというわけじゃありません。政治家もそうだというのは、みなさんもご存じのはず。外交官や軍人も状況によってそれな りにホラを吹くし、自動車営業マンやお肉屋さんや建設業の人も同じです。でも、小説家のホラ話に違いがあるとすれば、それを語ってもなんら不謹慎だと非難 されないことです。実際、小説家のホラ話が大ボラで手が込んでいて創造性に富んでいるなら、その分、社会の人や批評家から褒められるものです。何でそう なっているんでしょうか?

My answer would be this: Namely, that by telling skillful lies – which is to say, by making up fictions that appear to be true – the novelist can bring a truth out to a new location and shine a new light on it. In most cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and replacing it with a fictional form. In order to accomplish this, however, we first have to clarify where the truth lies within us. This is an important qualification for making up good lies.

私はこう答えたいと思います。つまり、創意のあるホラ話を語ることで、なんていうかな、作り話を真実であるように見せることで、小説家は新しい場所 に真実を生み出し、新しい光をあてることができます。たいていは、現実のままのかたちで真実を掴むことや正確に描写することは不可能です。だから私たち小 説家は、真実というものの尻尾を捕まえようとして、そいつを隠れた場所からおびき出し、虚構の場所に移し替え、虚構という形に作り直そうとするのです。し かし、これをうまくやり遂げるには、最初に自分たちの内面のどこに真実があるのかをはっきりさせておく必要があります。いいホラ話を作るのに重要な才能と いうのは、これです。

Today, however, I have no intention of lying. I will try to be as honest as I can. There are a few days in the year when I do not engage in telling lies, and today happens to be one of them.


So let me tell you the truth. A fair number of people advised me not to come here to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Some even warned me they would instigate a boycott of my books if I came.


The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in Gaza. The UN reported that more than a thousand people had lost their lives in the blockaded Gaza City, many of them unarmed citizens – children and old people.


Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to see my books subjected to a boycott.

受賞の知らせを受けてから何度も自問自答しました。このような時期にイスラエルに行き、文学賞を受賞するというのは、適切なことなんだろうか、と。 また、紛争の一方に加担したり、圧倒的な軍事力を行使する国家の政策を支持したりといった印象を与えることになるのではないか、と。もちろん、私はそんな 印象を与えたいと願っているわけはありません。私はいかなる戦争も是認しませんし、いかなる国家も支援しません。それに、自分の小説がボイコットされるの は望みません。

Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me – and especially if they are warning me – “don’t go there,” “don’t do that,” I tend to want to “go there” and “do that.” It’s in my nature, you might say, as a novelist. Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.

でも結局、いろいろ考えたすえに、ここに来ることを決心しました。決心の理由の一つは、私が行かないほうがいいとアドバイスしてくれた人が多すぎた ことです。そのですね、他の小説家もそうだけど、言われたこととちょうど逆のことをしたがるものなのです。人が私に「おまえはそこに行くな」「そんなこと はするな」とか言ったり警告したりすると、私は行きたくなるし、やってみたくなる。それが自分の性分だし、まあ、それが小説家というものです。小説家とい うのは生まれつきそんなやつらなんです。こいつらは根っから、自分の目で見て自分の手で触ってみないかぎり、何も信じないのです。

And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.


This is not to say that I am here to deliver a political message. To make judgments about right and wrong is one of the novelist’s most important duties, of course.


It is left to each writer, however, to decide upon the form in which he or she will convey those judgments to others. I myself prefer to transform them into stories – stories that tend toward the surreal. Which is why I do not intend to stand before you today delivering a direct political message.

小説家がどんなふうに判断を伝えるか。その方法を決めるのは、なんであれその小説家に任されています。私はといえば、現実性を見失いがちだとして も、それをお話にしたいと思います。それが、政治的なメッセージを直接伝えようとみなさんの前にやってきたわけではないという理由です。

Please do, however, allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: Rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this:


“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”


Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

ええ、壁が正しく、卵が間違っていても、私は卵の側に立ちます。何が正しくて何が間違っているか決めずにはいられない人もいますし、そうですね、時 の流れや歴史が決めることもあるでしょう。でも、理由はなんであれ、小説家が壁の側に立って作品を書いても、それに何の価値があるのでしょうか。

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

この例え話の意味は何でしょう? 場合によっては、単純明快すぎることがあります。爆撃機、戦車、ロケット砲、白燐弾が、高く堅固な壁です。卵はそれらによって砕かれ焼かれる非武装の市民です。それがこの例え話の意味の一つです。

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

でも、この例え話の意味はそれだけに限りません。より深い意味があります。こう考えてみましょう。誰でも、多かれ少なかれ、卵なのです。誰もが、薄 い殻に包まれた、かけがえのない、取り替えのきかない存在なのです。これは私には真実ですし、あなたにとっても真実です。私たちはみな、程度の違いはあ れ、高く堅固な壁に向き合っています。壁には「大いなる制度(ザ・システム)」という名前がついています。「大いなる制度」は私たちを守ろうと期待されて いる反面、時に独走して、私たちを殺害しはじめ、他国民を殺害するように仕向けます。それは冷血に、効率よく、制度的に進行するものです。

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist’s job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories – stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.

一人ひとりの人間が貴重な存在であることを表現し、光をあてること以外に、私が小説を書く理由はありません。物語の目的というものは、私たちの存在 が、その蜘蛛の巣に絡み取られ卑小なものにされないように、警笛を鳴らし、「大いなる制度」に光をあて続けることです。小説家が絶え間なくすることは、か けがえのない人間の存在というものを、生と死の物語、愛の物語、悲しみや恐怖に震える物語、腹がねじれるほど笑える物語、そうした物語を通して丹念に描く ことなのだと私は確信しています。だから私たち小説家は日々一生懸命、物語を紡いでいるわけです。

My father died last year at the age of 90. He was a retired teacher and a part-time Buddhist priest. When he was in graduate school, he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in China. As a child born after the war, I used to see him every morning before breakfast offering up long, deeply-felt prayers at the Buddhist altar in our house. One time I asked him why he did this, and he told me he was praying for the people who had died in the war.

私の父は昨年90歳で死にました。父は教員退職後、お坊さんのアルバイトをしていました。父は大学院在籍時代に徴兵され、中国に送り込まれました。 戦後に生まれた子どもとして私は、父が毎日朝食の前に仏壇で長く心に染みるお経を唱えていたのをよく目にしたものでした。私は父に一度理由を聞いたことが あります。父の答えは、戦争で死んだ人たちの供養ということでした。

He was praying for all the people who died, he said, both ally and enemy alike. Staring at his back as he knelt at the altar, I seemed to feel the shadow of death hovering around him.


My father died, and with him he took his memories, memories that I can never know. But the presence of death that lurked about him remains in my own memory. It is one of the few things I carry on from him, and one of the most important.


I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong – and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

今日私がみなさんに伝えることができたらと願うのはたった一つのことです。私たちはみな人間です。国籍や人種や宗教を越えることができる個人です。 そして「偉大なる制度」と呼ばれる堅固な壁に向き合う壊れやすい卵なのです。見たところ、私たちには勝ち目がありません。壁は高くあまりに堅固で、そして 無慈悲極まるものです。もしなんとか勝利の希望があるとすれば、それは、私たちが、自身の存在と他者の存在をかけがえなく取り替えのきかないものであると 確信することからであり、心を一つにつなぐことのぬくもりからです。

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

もう少し考えてみてください。誰だって自分の存在は疑えませんし、生きていると確信しています。「大いなる制度」はそれとはまったく違う存在です。 私たちは「大いなる制度」とやらに搾取されてはなりませんし、独走させるわけにはいきません。「大いなる制度」が私たちを作ったのではなく、私たちが「大 いなる制度」を作為したのです。

That is all I have to say to you.


I am grateful to have been awarded the Jerusalem Prize. I am grateful that my books are being read by people in many parts of the world. And I am glad to have had the opportunity to speak to you here today.



I’m Back!

February 19, 2009


Hello everyone! I’m not dead. I’ve just been hibernating…and getting dragged around on an abandoned mattress behind a four-wheeler.  The plum trees are blossoming so I thought I’d drag my ass out of my cave and have a sniff of the pre-spring air. I’ve been full time martial arts boy of late–eating, sleeping and breathing it while leaving just enough leeway to drink a few beers now and again.  Went to the States over the holidays for the first time in two years.  It was a great time getting to relax and catch up with most everyone.  Of course, there were too many desires and not enough time to see everyone and do everything on my list, but I got to shoot guns and ride a mechanical bull and walk on the beach in Oregon.  That was at least enough to satisfy me until next time, so long as next time isn’t too far away.  I also proposed to Yuki while we were in Oregon, and we’ll be getting married in the spring of 201o. After a long lazy slump I’ve begun to study Japanese again; I finally reached a point where I started to feel like kind of a dummy not being able to talk to people I interact with every day which precipitated my now renewed drive to talk pretty someday.  My recent heroes are Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bill Hicks (all stand-up comedians) and Frank Zappa. Zappa’s music is so varied and insanely genius that I just can’t get enough of it, especially since I discovered that his live performances are where all the elements of his art converge, and that there are many many hours of high quality live recordings…enough to keep me occupied for months, at least.  I would also like to declare two firm beliefs I have acquired:

1) the September 11 World Trade Center attacks were inside jobs, that is, the buildings were blown up from explosives planted inside the buildings NOT by the planes that crashed into them.

2) there is widespread election fraud being perpetrated in the US by insidious members of the Republican party. This fraud is systemic and was used to win Bush the elections in both 200o and 2004.

I’ll be happy to point you to the sources that led me to these beliefs if you’re interested. Like George Carlin says, “Everything you’re told in America is bullshit and it’s bad for you.” God rest his grumpy soul.

I’ve cooled off on my current-events fixation since the election (that’s right…go back to bed, America) in favor of a more introspective perspective. It’s a little frustrating as well wanting to get involved and be politically active for the first time when I’m thousands of miles away from the States and pretty firmly rooted in my life here, so I’m tending to my self at the moment, trying to write more and get more centered in order to bring up my level of practice in the dojo. There is a barrier to my level of training in Aikido that in order to surpass it I must increase my ability to concentrate and maintain a calm focus while practicing.  So that’s where I’m at.  Oh, and my favorite snack at the moment it Oreo cookies.  There’s more to come. Oyasuminasai