Monday, October 07, 2019

「猫を棄(す)てる 父親について語るときに僕の語ること」:: 村上春樹

Thought I should just read it. It sounded...different from the author's usual style — Haruki Murakami's short essay published in The New Yorker on September 30, 'Abandoning A Cat: Memories of My Father',「猫を棄(す)てる 父親について語るときに僕の語ること」. This English essay is translated by Philip Gabriel.

The author begins the essay with a childhood memory of him and the father abandoning their cat 2km away at the beach (who cleverly returned before they did). He used that to set the pace in this story about his relationship with his father, Chiaki Murakami. He tells readers how they became estranged when he became a writer at 30 years old. They subsequently never spoke much and didn't meet for the next two decades. Apparently they never really reconciled even upon the father's death at 90 years old in 2008.

This essay was first published in the June 2019 issue of Japanese monthly journal Bungei Shunju (文藝春秋). The author has always been interested in the political and social relationship between China and Japan. World War II was of particular concern, and along with that, his father's role as a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army at that point.

The 20th Infantry Regiment was known for being one of the first to arrive in Nanjing after the city fell. Military units from Kyoto were generally seen as well bred and urbane, but this particular regiment’s actions gave it a surprisingly bloody reputation. For a long time, I was afraid that my father had participated in the attack on Nanjing, and I was reluctant to investigate the details. He died, in August, 2008, at the age of ninety, without my ever having asked him about it, without his ever having talked about it. 
My father was drafted in August of 1938. The 20th Infantry Regiment’s infamous march into Nanjing took place the previous year, in December of 1937, so my father had missed it by nearly a year. When I learned this, it was a tremendous relief, as if a great weight had been lifted.

Oddly, the is a piece of Murakami writing that I enjoy. I didn't even mind the 'Murakami man' that it centers itself on, the author himself. I like how Murakami wrote this, and its deeply personal story. It's finally one story in a narrative style that I don't think it as nonsense. Well, it isn't as though he writes prattle. He writes well, but it meant nothing to me. I can't appreciate any subtlety or surrealism in his stories. I'm not his intended reader. But this essay, I understand. I can even relate to it, in many many ways. I'm not close to my parents either, in particular, my mother.

The essay ends with another childhood memory of a little white kitten who ran up a tree and got stuck there overnight because there was no ladder high enough to rescue it. The author doesn't know what happened to it because he didn't see the kitten come down in the morning. The metaphors in this essay are fairly coherent. I'm not sure why cats though. Hahaha.

My father and I were born into different ages and environments, and our ways of thinking and viewing the world were miles apart. If at a certain point I’d attempted to rebuild our relationship, things might have gone in another direction, but I was too focussed on what I wanted to do to make the effort. 
My father and I finally talked face to face shortly before he died. I was almost sixty, my father ninety. He was in a hospital in Nishijin, in Kyoto. He had terrible diabetes, and cancer was ravaging much of his body. Though he’d always been on the stout side, now he was gaunt. I barely recognized him. And there, in the final days of his life—the very final few days—my father and I managed an awkward conversation and reached a sort of reconciliation. Despite our differences, looking at my emaciated father I did feel a connection, a bond between us. 
Even now, I can relive the shared puzzlement of that summer day when we rode together on his bike to the beach at Koroen to abandon a striped cat, a cat that totally got the better of us. I can recall the sound of the waves, the scent of the wind whistling through the stand of pines. It’s the accumulation of insignificant things like this that has made me the person I am.



Hi, is this Murkami essay in Japanese online yet in nihongo anywhere? I read the New Yorker. now i want to read the original.


so is the original essay in nihongo online anywhere? RSVP, dan in Taiwan

imp said...

hi dan, i just dropped you an email. i don't know if the journal published an online version. I read it in English and I'm not looking for the Japanese original anytime soon, so I haven't embarked on a search yet.