Thursday, December 15, 2011

Murakami and After the Quake: Reality Check




The video above is the trailer for a play by Frank Galati formed from two of the stories in Haruki Murakami's short story collection After the Quake, yet another of the creative spin-offs of his work.  In the book, the actual earthquake takes place offstage. As a reality check, here's a bit of BBC coverage of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Of course, it's impossible to read this collection now and not think about the more recent Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. Must reading in that regard is Murakami's acceptance speech ("As an Unrealistic Dreamer") given for the Catalunya International Prize in Barcelona this summer. In it, he talks about the resilience of the Japanese people in the face of natural disaster but focuses most of his attention on the relationship of Japan and nuclear power,
We should have been working to develop alternative energy sources to replace nuclear power at a national level, by harvesting all existing
technologies, wisdom and social capital. Even if people throughout the world had mocked us, saying, “Nuclear power is the most effective power generation system, and Japanese people are really stupid not to use it”, we should have retained the aversion to nuclear power that was triggered by our experience of nuclear weapons. 
We should have made the development of non-nuclear power generation the cornerstone of our policy after World War II. This should have been the way to assume our collective responsibility for the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Japan, we needed strong ethics, strong values, and a strong social message. This would have been a chance for the Japanese people to make a real contribution to the world. We neglected to take that important road, however, preferring to pursue the fast track of “efficiency” in support of our rapid economic development.
This month National Geographic has a package with photoessays (Japan Nuclear Zone) of scenes from within the "exclusion zone" and nuclear radiation clean-up, an area already beginning to resemble Chernobyl, a disaster we've read about and discussed here previously.

The New York Times also has a fresh multi-media report out on the clean-up,
So far, the government is following a pattern set since the nuclear accident, dismissing dangers, often prematurely, and laboring to minimize the scope of the catastrophe. Already, the trial cleanups have stalled: the government failed to anticipate communities’ reluctance to store tons of soil to be scraped from contaminated yards and fields.
If you're looking for a more upbeat story about the disaster, I enjoyed this PBS Newshour piece about scientist-activists working with citizens to crowdsource radiation data in the interests of providing information about the safety of living conditions.


Murakami donated the prize money from the Catalunya prize to earthquake victims.  I just wanted to note here too, that another of our favorite authors, Naomi Hirahara (Summer of the Big Bachi) contributed a short story to the Kindle collection Shaken: Stories from Japan which benefits Japan America Society of Southern California's 2011 Japan Relief Fund. Loyal Readers might want to check that out.

More Murakami posts can be found here.
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