National Trauma and Resilience in the Works of Murakami Haruki

Conference: The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2022)
Title: National Trauma and Resilience in the Works of Murakami Haruki
Stream: Japanese Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Junko Agnew, Northern Kentucky University, United States


In 1995 Japan faced two major national tragedies: The Kobe earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack. The novelist Murakami Haruki calls these events “nightmarish eruptions beneath our feet” [1] which he features in his works Underground and After The Quake.Underground is a collection of his interviews with the victims of the sarin attack. After The Quake is a collection of short stories, all of which are related to the Kobe earthquake. Despite the author’s intention to find out “what happened” in these events, I would argue that “what happened” is in fact not the main concern in both works, especially because the physical experience of the Kobe earthquake is missing in After The Quake. This “displacement of the event”[2] in these two works enables people to move forward to the recovery from a national tragedy since it shifts our focus from the events themselves to the meaning of each victim’s experience. While the victim’s experiences in Underground suggest the need for a reform of the Japanese government and social system, our understanding of the impact of the Kobe earthquake through After The Quake helps to create a “community of melancholy” among the people who were affected by the quake. Through the unidentifiable yet profound connections forged by this “community of melancholy,” the nation can mourn the loss collectively and prepare for future adversities.

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