“In Dreams Begins Responsibility”: Murakami, Yeats and Counterpoint in Écriture

By Hisami Nakamura.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Murakami Haruki's novels are centred round the complex interrelations of the dream world and the real world, such as “Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” (1985), “Kafka on the Shore” (2002) and his latest work, “1Q84” (2009-2010), all of which bear a rather unexpected influence of W. B. Yeats. In fact a line from Yeats’s work, “Responsibilities” (1914), is quoted in “Kafka”: ‘In dreams begins responsibility’. Further, images of a dried well and a strange looking moon bear striking similarity in Yeats and Murakami. In “1Q84”, the merging of the two moons (one yellow and another green), and of the protagonists Tengo and Aomame, remind one of Yeats’s poems on a changing moon more than of the love and betrayal between the two protagonists—Winston Smith and Julia—of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949), the ostensible inspiration for the latest Murakami novel. The use of the image of a dried well in Murakami’s “Hear the Wind Sing” (1979), on the other hand, seems almost to echo Yeats’s play, “At the Hawk’s Well” (1917). This paper discusses the relations of the dried well/weird moon symbolism and the conscious/unconscious conflict, with added emphasis on the nature of contrapuntal écriture, or in Murakami’s favourite saying, writing where ‘the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing’.

Keywords: Murakami Haruki, W. B. Yeats, Counterpoint, Self/Other, Double, Dried well, Moon, Comparative Studies

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.299-308. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 865.873KB).

Dr. Hisami Nakamura

Lecturer, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan

Hisami Nakamura attended Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo for BA, MA and ABD, and has a Pg Diploma from Queen Mary College, University of London, and a PhD from University College Dublin. She is interested in the English Romantics, modernist poets, comparative literature, film studies, and most recently, arts-science interdisciplinarity. She has read 2 papers on W. B. Yeats at IASIL, in 2005 and 2007, and made a guest speech at the University of Limerick in 2007. Her recent publication includes ‘How Crazy is Jane?’ (University of North Canada, 2010) and a joint arts-science paper ‘What Kind of a Wave is Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa?’ (Royal Society, 2009; with Julyan Cartwright). She is currently working on a book on comparative studies of W. B. Yeats, Oe Kenzaubro and Murakami Haruki.


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