Murakami on Islands Dispute, Rushdie on Ai Weiwei

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has commented on the tense stand-off between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Murakami wrote in the Asahi Shimbun that (from AFP):

“When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions’, it creates a dangerous situation with no exit.

“It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical.

“It makes you speak loudly and act rudely… But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.

“We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage,” he wrote.

Murakami’s novel 1Q84 has been among the many targets of recent anti-Japanese boycotts, alongside sushi, cars and even medicine. But although upset by this development, the author warned against retaliation. From Japan Real Time:

“I fear that as both an Asian and Japanese writer the steady achievements we’ve made (in deepening cultural exchanges and understanding with our Asia neighbors) will be hugely damaged because of the problems regarding Senkaku and Takeshima this time,” wrote Mr. Murakami.

[…] The removal of Japanese works in bookstores across China “shocked” the 63-year-old author. It represented how far reaching the territorial tiffs have become, threatening to tear down the regional cultural bonds that took decades to build. Mr. Murakami said it’s not his position to criticize China for suspending the sale of books written by Japanese authors “because it’s China’s domestic problem.” “But here is what I’d say loud and clear: Please don’t retaliate against China for taking such steps. If we do, it becomes our problem, and it will come back and hit you.”

British-Indian author Salman Rushdie, meanwhile, has written an open letter with PEN president Peter Godwin to Chinese president Hu Jintao and foreign minister Yang Jiechi. The letter protests the ongoing travel restrictions on the artist Ai Weiwei, whose passport has been confiscated and whose appeal against charges of tax evasion was rejected on Thursday.


We write on behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, and on behalf of thousands more admirers of contemporary international literature and art, to protest the travel bar against artist Ai Weiwei, who was due to participate in a PEN event in New York on October 11. We understand that his passport, confiscated during his 81-day detention in April 2011, has still not been returned to him, although more than a year has passed since his release and his probation expired in June 2012.

[…] Like our colleagues throughout the world’s art and literary communities, we were shocked when Ai Weiwei was detained in 2011, and we are deeply disappointed to learn that he remains unable to travel freely and participate in international fora and conversations in which he has so clearly earned a place. We believe restricting his right to travel abroad risks violating Chinese and international laws, and that it does little to advance the goals and aspirations of the Chinese government and its people. We therefore entreat you to return Ai Weiwei’s passport immediately and lift all restrictions against him, allowing him to travel to represent his own work and his ideas. We very much look forward to welcoming him back to New York.

Ai was the subject of a New York Times op-ed by Rushdie soon after his disappearance in April 2011.


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