Haruki Murakami wins Jerusalem Prize
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami won the Jerusalem Prize for his ‘‘artistic achievements and love of people’’ Sunday, becoming the first non-European-language writer to receive the Israeli literary prize.
In his speech at the ceremony, Murakami, 60, stressed that each person must work to stop states and organizations from getting out of control, apparently criticizing Israel’s recent large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Murakami said he thought that attending the ceremony might give the impression that he supports Israel’s dependence on its overwhelming military but said he eventually decided to ‘‘speak rather than say nothing.’’
During the 15-minute speech in English, he warned that the system, which is supposed to protect people, ‘‘sometimes takes on a life of its own and it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others coldly, efficiently and systematically.’’
In writing novels, he always keeps in mind a high, solid wall, and an egg that breaks against it. ‘‘I will always stand on the side of the egg,’’ he said.
The wall is a metaphor for the system and the egg represents each person’s soul enclosed in a fragile shell, according to Murakami.
‘‘We are all fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called the system....To all appearances, we have no hope...the wall is too high and too strong...If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our utter uniqueness,’’ he said.
‘‘Each of us possesses a tangible living soul. The system has no such thing. We must not allow the system to exploit us,’’ he added.
While he received loud applause from the audience of around 700, a middle-aged man said he was offended due to the speech’s political content. He said it is wrong to criticize Israel when receiving a prize from the nation.
Murakami’s attendance came despite criticism from pro-Palestinian groups, including a Japanese nongovernmental organization, that receiving the award would lead to defending Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians.
The Jerusalem Prize winner is selected by a panel of judges appointed by the Jerusalem mayor and is given to authors whose writings have expressed the idea of individual freedom in society, according to the award presenter.
Noting that Murakami’s books have been translated into 40 different languages and have garnered acclaim the world over, including in Israel, the presenter said the decision to confer the prize to him was ‘‘made out of profound esteem for his artistic achievements and love of people.’’
’’His humanism is clearly reflected in his writings,’’ the presenter said.
Several of Murakami’s works such as ‘‘Norwegian Wood’’ have been translated into Hebrew and he is a widely known novelist in Israel.