In his new novel titled Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami mentioned the Nanjing Massacre, in which around 400,000 Chinese were killed in December 1937 during the Japanese aggression. This segment of the story has stirred up a storm in a teacup in Japanese society. Many rightists have called for boycotting the book. Toshio Motoya, founder and CEO of the notorious APA Hotel which placed publications on distorted history in its rooms, scorned Murakami and said that the author wrote it to win the Nobel Prize.
Though the book has not yet been published in China, Murakami's unperturbed attitude toward history has garnered positive reactions from the Chinese public.
With Murakami's reputation at home and abroad, the sales of his book has reportedly reached 1.3 million copies in Japan, which means at least the same number of Japanese readers are potentially influenced by his description of the massacre. Furthermore, the novel will be translated into different languages and sold in other countries.
Murakami's influence may attract criticism from Japanese rightists like Motoya, who advocates revisionist history by displaying publications to hotel guests.
Hence, the so-called boycott, seemingly an expression of dissatisfaction with Murakami, is aimed to thwart the spread of truthful history.
Murakami has been candid about his views on historical issues, given his works and media interviews in the past, which is consistent with the way he writes about the massacre in the new book.
For instance, in his The Wind-up Bird Chronicle published in 1995, he described the violence of the Japanese army in northeastern China. In an interview with Kyodo News in April 2015, he said that Japan should make straightforward apologies to those countries it invaded and seek their forgiveness. Therefore, Murakami's depiction of the massacre is not completely out of the blue.
Besides, literary creations are often a reflection of real life. Murakami spent seven years finishing the book. During that time, the rightist conservative movement saw rapid expansion, including cabinet members' visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the government-led revamp of the history textbooks and rightists' repeated denial of the historical truth since Abe came to power in 2012. Murakami put the truth of the Nanjing Massacre in his novel in order to fight against the rightists' uproar.
In China, Murakami has long been a novelist channeling worldview to his readers. With his new novel referring to the Nanjing Massacre, the Chinese public will view him as more than just a novelist.
From Norwegian Wood to his graceful translation of Raymond Carver's A Small, Good Thing, Chinese readers have been introduced to a unique way of living, as well as new worldviews.
Murakami has also been known for his Noble Prize nomination in literature for many years but he never got it. His grasp on the serious part of history in his new book is quite venerable and shows a writer's commitment to social responsibility.
Murakami's writings have grown weightier. His early works are full of bourgeois sentiments. But, his recent publication 1Q84 is an introspective work about evil organizations and terrorism. He once compared himself to a kettle, saying it takes time to reach the boiling point. In this regard, he has set out to boil in a vehement and steadfast way.
Despite the fact that Murakami has not received the Nobel Prize, his conscientiousness for being a Japanese writer manifested through his works has been recognized. The book, Killing Commendatore, in many people's minds, will make Murakami one of the greatest writers in modern times.
The author is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Sociology at Toyo University. firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion