Murakami and the Student Movement

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Although Murakami is often described as apolitical, the student politics of the 1960s haunt his work. Not only do they form the backdrop for his most popular novel Norwegian Wood, they also provide an ideological counterpoint to the strange worlds Murakami creates. The late 60s were the final last gasp of Japan’s age of politics, in which students searched for meaning through collective action. However vague, it appeared possible to imagine alternative futures, and however illusionary, students felt they had political agency. But when the movement collapsed in the early 1970s, Japan finally moved into the age of economics: an age in which the search for meaning was made redundant by the market. Murakami’s novels can be read as a response to this transition. They are about searching for meaning in worlds where meaning seems impossible, and in doing so they are working through the failure of the grand narratives of the 60s. But what were those narratives? How did students talk about their experiences of the movement? And how might we use those accounts to produce new readings of Murakami’s work? To answer these questions, this paper draws upon a collection of as yet undiscussed letters (東大闘争獄中書簡集) written by students imprisoned during the Tokyo University strikes of 1968/69 to further develop our understanding of the motivations, hopes, dreams, and fears of the students radicals of the 1960s, and to help us read the politics back into Murakami.
Period8 Mar 2018
Event title40 years with Murakami Haruki
Event typeConference
LocationNewcastleShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational