Haruki Murakami

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Painful is the stress when one cannot reproduce or convey vividly to others, however hard he tries, what he's experienced so intensely.

Haruki Murakami (村上 春樹 Murakami Haruki, born 12 January 1949) is a best-selling contemporary Japanese writer. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards, both in Japan and internationally, including the World Fantasy Award (2006) and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award (2006), while his whole oeuvre garnered the Franz Kafka Prize (2006), the Jerusalem Prize (2009), and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Prize (2016) among others.

Quotes[edit]

  • I said this one day to the doctor in charge of my case, and he told me that, in a sense, what I was feeling was right, that we are in here not to correct the deformation but to accustom ourselves to it: that one of our problems was our inability to recognize and accept our own deformities. Just as each person has certain idiosyncrasies in the way he or she walks, people have idiosyncrasies in the way they think and feel and see things, … "
  • In a letter from Naoko, Norwegian Wood
You burn barns. I don't burn barns. There's this glaring difference, and to me, rather than say which of us is strange, first of all I'd like to clear up just what that difference is.
As I already explained, I don't have any form. I'm a conceptual metaphysical object.
Who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.
Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.
What gave money its true meaning was its dark-night namelessness, its breathtaking interchangeability.
  • People's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far the maintenance of life is concerned. They are all just fuel. Advertising filler in the news paper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills; when you feed them to fire, they are just paper. The fire isn't thinking 'oh This is Kant' or 'Oh This is Yomuri evening edition' or 'Nice tits', while it burns. To the fire, they are nothing but scraps of paper. It is the exact same thing. Important memories , not-so-important memories, totally useless memories : there is no distinction — they are all just fuel
    • After Dark
  • Painful is the stress when one cannot reproduce or convey vividly to others, however hard he tries, what he's experienced so intensely. In my case, the stronger is the intention to "write about a particular subject in a particular way," the harder it becomes to start writing and to express myself. This stress somewhat resembles the irritation one feels when he cannot describe to another person what he experienced so vividly and realistically in his dreams. All words I use to narrate my feeling of the moment fail incessantly to describe what I wish to, and then they begin to betray me.
    • A Long Way from The Stuffed Cabbage (short story)
  • You burn barns. I don't burn barns. There's this glaring difference, and to me, rather than say which of us is strange, first of all I'd like to clear up just what that difference is.
    • Barn Burning (short story) in The Elephant Vanishes
  • Mediocrity is like a spot on your shirt, it never comes off.
    • Dance, Dance, Dance
  • "likewesaid, we'lldowhatwecan. Trytoreconnectyou, towhatyouwant," said the Sheep Man. "Butwecan'tdoit-alone. Yougottaworktoo.
    Sittingsnotgonnadoit, thinking'snotgonnadoit." "So what do I have to do?" "Dance," said the Sheep Man. "Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don'teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you'restuck. Sodon'tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou're tired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, ok? Justdon'tletyourfeetstop."
    • Dance Dance Dance
  • Numbers aren’t the important thing … what matters is deciding in your heart to accept another person completely. When you do that, it is always the first time and the last.
    • The Kidney-shaped Stone that Moves Every Day (translated by Jay Rubin)
  • If you're in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark.
  • If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
  • But who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.
    • Norwegian Wood
  • But I didn't understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.
    • South of the Border, West of the Sun
  • Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint.
    • South of the Border, West of the Sun
  • Why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?
    • Sputnik Sweetheart
  • And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they're nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we'd be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.
    • Sputnik Sweetheart
  • You are a beautiful person, Doctor. Clearheaded. Strong. But you seem always to be dragging your heart along the ground. From now on, little by little, you must prepare yourself to face death. If you devote all of your future energy to living, you will not be able to die well. You must begin to shift gears, a little at a time. Living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value.
    • Thailand
  • I sometimes think that people's hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what's at the bottom. All you can do is guess from what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.
  • The world would be a pretty dull place if it were made up only of the first-rate, right?
    • Man-Eating Cats
  • Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.
  • I don't care about the time I run. I can try all I want, but I doubt I'll ever be able to run the way I used to. I'm ready to accept that. It's not one of your happier realities, but that's what happens when you get older. Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it's been moving ever forward without a moment's rest. And one of the privileges given to those who've avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honour of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.
    • What I Talk about When I Talk about Running (2009)
  • If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it's too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us -- create who we are. It is we who created the system.
    • Jerusalem Prize acceptance speech, (2009)

A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel (1982)[edit]

  • I was twenty-one at the time, about to turn twenty-two. No prospect of graduating soon, and yet no reason to quit school. Caught in the most curiously depressing circumstances. For months I'd been stuck, unable to take one step in any new direction. The world kept moving on; I alone was at a standstill. In the autumn, everything took on a desolate cast, the colors swiftly fading before my eyes. The sunlight, the smell of the grass, the faintest patter of rain, everything got on my nerves.
    • Chapter 1: Wednesday Afternoon Picnic
  • "I don't know, there's something about you. Say there's an hourglass: the sand's about to run out. Someone like you can always be counted on to turn the thing over."
    • Chapter 2: Sixteen Steps
  • To sleep with a woman: it can seem of the utmost importance in your mind, or then again it can seem like nothing much at all. Which only goes to say that there's sex as therapy (self-therapy, that is) and there's sex as pastime. There's sex for self-improvement start to finish and there's sex for killing time straight through; sex that is therapeutic at first only to end up as nothing-better-to-do, and vice versa. Our human sex life- how shall I put it?- differs fundamentally from the sex life of a whale. We are not whales- and this constitutes one great theme underscoring our sex lives.
    • Chapter 4: The Whale's Penis and the Woman with Three Occupations
  • So it was that my most impressionable years of boyhood were spent gazing at not a whale, but a whale's penis. Whenever I tired of strolling through the chill aisles of the aquarium, I'd steal off to my place on the bench of the high-ceilinged stillness of the exhibition room and spend hours on end there contemplating this whale's penis.
    • Chapter 4: The Whale's Penis and the Woman with Three Occupations
  • “What’s more, you’re loads better than you think you are.” “So why is it I get to thinking that way?” I puzzled. “That’s because you’re only half-living.” she said briskly. “The other half is still untapped somewhere.”
    • Chapter 4: The Whale's Penis and the Woman with Three Occupations
  • There are various reasons why an individual might habitually consume large quantities of alcohol, but they all effectively boil down to the same thing. Five years ago, my business partner was a happy drunk. Three years later, he had become a moody drunk. And by the last summer, he was fumbling at the knob of the door to alcoholism. As with most habitual drinkers, he was nice-enough, regular-if-not-exactly-sharp kind of guy. He thought so too. That's why he drank. Because it seemed that with alcohol in his syste, he could more fully embody this idea of being that kind of guy.
    • Chapter 7: Before the Strange Man
  • We can, if we so choose, wander aimlessly over the continent of the arbitrary. Rootless as some winged seed blown about on a serendipitous spring breeze. Nonetheless, we can in the same breath deny that there is any such thing as coincidence. What's done is done, what's yet to be is clearly yet to be. In other words, sandwiched as we are between the "everything" that is behind us and the "zero" beyond us, ours is an ephemeral existence in which there is neither coincidence nor possibility. In actual practice, however, distinctions between the two interpretations amount to precious little. A state of affairs (as with most face-offs between interpretations) not unlike calling the same food by two different names. So much for metaphors.
    • Chapter 10, Counting Sheep
  • Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.
    • Chapter 10, Counting Sheep
  • There are symbolic dreams—dreams that symbolize some reality. Then there are symbolic realities—realities that symbolize a dream. Symbols are what you might call honorary town councilors of the worm universe. In the worm universe, there is nothing unusual about a dairy cow seeking a pair of pliers. A cow is bound to get her pliers sometimes. It has nothing to do with me. Yet the fact that the cow chose me to obtain her pliers changes everything.
    • Chapter 12, Wherefore the Worm Universe
  • Generally, people who are good at writing letters have no need to write letters. They've got plenty of life to lead inside their own context.
    • Chapter 13, The Rat's First Letter
  • “My biggest fault is that the faults I was born with grow bigger each year. It's like I was raising chickens inside of me. The chickens lay their eggs and the eggs hatch into other chickens, which then lay eggs.”
    • Chapter 13, The Rat's First Letter
  • I don't really know if it's the right thing to do, making new life. Kids grow up, generations take their place. What does it all come to? More hills bulldozed and more ocean fronts filled in? Faster cars and more cats run over? Who needs it?
    • Chapter 15, The Song Is Over
  • "Speaking frankly and speaking the truth are two different things entirely. Honesty is to truth as prow is to stern. Honesty appears first and truth appears last."
    • Chapter 17, The Strange Man's Strange Tale
  • You have an interesting history. Now people can generally be classified in to two groups: the mediocre realists and the mediocre dreamers. You clearly belong to the letter. Your fate is and will always be the fate of dreamers.
    • Chapter 17, The Strange Man's Strange Tale
  • The world is mediocre. About that there is no mistake. Well then, has the world been mediocre since time immemorial? No. In the beginning, the world was chaos, and chaos is not mediocre. The mediocratization began when people separated the means of production from daily life.
    • Chapter 18, The Strange Man's Tale Goes On
  • The negation of cognition thus correlates on the verbal level. For when those two pillars of Western humanism, individual cognition and evolutionary continuity, lose their meaning, language loses meaning. Existence ceases for the individuum as we know it, and all becomes chaos. You cease to be a unique entity unto yourself, but exist simply as chaos. And not just the chaos that is you ; you chaos is also my chaos. To wit, existence is communication, and communication, existence.
    • Chapter 18, The Strange Man's Tale Goes on
  • “Everybody has some one thing they do not want to lose," began the man. "You included. And we are professionals at finding out that very thing. Humans by necessity must have a midway point between their desires and their pride. Just as all objects must have a center of gravity. This is something we can pinpoint. Only when it is gone do people realize it even existed.”
    • Chapter 22,Sunday Afternoon Picnic
  • "Body cells replace themselves every month. Even at this very moment," she said, thrusting a skinny back of her hand before my eyes, "most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.
    • Chapter 25, Transit Completed at Movie Theater, On to The Dolphin Hotel
  • “Sheep hurt my father, and through my father, sheep have also hurt me.”
    • Chapter 26, The Sheep Professor
  • "Looking at things this way," she said, comparing the left and right side of the chronology, "we Japanese seem to live from war to war."
    • Chapter 30, Further Decline of Junitaki and Its Sheep
  • The house kept its own time, like the old-fashioned grandfather clock in the living room. People who happened by raised the weights, and as long as the weights were wound, the clock continued ticking away. But with people gone and the weights unattended, whole chunks of time were left to collect in deposits of faded life on the floor.
    • Chapter 32, An Unlucky Bend in the Road
  • There's nothing worse than waking up in total darkness. It's like having to go back and live life all over from the beginning. When I first opened my eyes, iy esd sd ig I ertr living someone' else's life. After an extremely long time, this began to match up with my own life. A curious overslap this, my own life as some else's. It was improbabblr that such a person as myself could even be living.
    • Chapter 38, And So Time Passes
  • Time. Particles of darkness configured mysterious patterns on my retina. Patterns that degenerated without a sound, only to be replaced by new patterns. Darkness but darkness alone was shifting, like mercury in motionless space. I put a stop to my thoughts and let time pass. Let time carry me along. Carry me to where a new darkness was configuring yet newer patterns.
    • Chapter 38, And So Time Passes
  • I guess I felt attached to my weakness. My pain and suffering too. Summer light, the smell of a breeze, the sound of cicadas - if I like these things, why should I apologize?
    • Chapter 40, The Rat Who Wound the Clock
  • "A friend to kill time is a friend sublime."
    • Chapter 40, The Rat Who Wound the Clock
  • “Weakness is something that rots in the body. Like gangrene. I’ve felt that ever since I was a teenager. That’s why I was always on edge. There’s this something inside you that’s rotting away and you feel it all along.”
    • Chapter 40, The Rat Who Wound the Clock
  • I watched an old American submarine movie on television. The creaking plot had the captain and first officer constantly at each other’s throat. The submarine was a fossil, and one guy had claustrophobia. But all that didn’t stop everything from working out well in the end. It was an everything-works-out-in-the-end-so-maybe-war’s-not-so-bad-after-all sort of film. One of these days they’ll be making a film where the whole human race gets wiped out in a nuclear war, but everything works out in the end.
  • The song is over. But the melody lingers on.
  • There's that kind of money in the world. It aggravates you to have it, makes you miserable to spend it, and you hate yourself when it's gone. And when you hate yourself, you feel like spending money. Except there's no money left. And no hope.
  • “The Boss is an honorable man. After the Lord, the most godly person I've ever met." "You've met God?" "Certainly. I telephone Him every night.”
  • Mediocrity is a constant, as one Russian writer put it. Russians have a way with aphorisms. They probably spend all winter thinking them up.
  • “I think I just don’t like names. Basically, I can’t see what’s wrong with calling me ‘me’ or you ‘you’ or us ‘us’ or them ‘them.”
  • There's not a branch of publishing or broadcasting that doesn't depend in some way on advertising. It'd be like an aquarium without water. Why, ninety-five percent of the information that reaches you has already been preselected and paid for.
  • The basic stupidity of modern Japan is that we’ve learned absolutely nothing from our contact with other Asian peoples.

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)[edit]

  • The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. It could have been going down for all I knew, or maybe it wasn’t moving at all. But let’s just assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gong up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know?
    • Opening paragraph, Chapter One
  • If your confusion leads you in the right direction, the results can be uncommonly rewarding.
    • Chapter One
  • I always say—a prejudice on my part, I'm sure—you can tell a lot about a person's character from his choice of sofa. Sofas constitute a realm inviolate unto themselves. This, however, is something that only those who have grown up sitting on good sofas will appreciate. It's like growing up reading good books or listening to good music. One good sofa breeds another good sofa; one bad sofa breeds another bad sofa. That's how it goes. There are people who drive luxury cars, but have only second- or third-rate sofas in their homes. I put little trust in such people. An expensive automobile may well be worth its price, but it's only an expensive automobile. If you have the money, you can buy it, anyone can buy it. Procuring a good sofa, on the other hand, requires style and experience and philosophy. It takes money, yes, but you also need a vision of the superior sofa. That sofa among sofas.
    • Chapter Five: Tabulations, Evolution, Sex Drive
  • Many are the women who can take their clothes off seductively, but women who can charm as they dress?
    • Chapter Nine: Appetite, Disappointment, Leningrad
  • Now for a good twelve-hour sleep, I told myself. Twelve solid hours. Let birds sing, let people go to work. Somewhere out there, a volcano might blow, Israeli commandos might decimate a Palestinian village. I couldn't stop it. I was going to sleep.
    • Chapter Thirteen: Frankfurt, Door, Independent Operants
  • I’ve read Rudin before, but that was fifteen years ago in university. Rereading it now, lying all bandaged up, sipping my whiskey in bed in the afternoon, I felt new sympathy for the protagonist Rudin. I almost never identify with anybody in Dostoyevsky, but the characters in Turgenev’s old-fashioned novels are such victims of circumstance, I jump right in. I have a thing about losers. Flaws in oneself open you up to others flaws. Not that Dostoyevsky’s characters don’t generate pathos, but they’re flawed in a way that don’t come across as faults.
    • Chapter Fifteen: Whiskey, Torture, Turgenoev
  • Kindness and a caring mind are two separate qualities. Kindness is manners. It is superficial custom, an acquired practice. Not so the mind. The mind is deeper, stronger, and, I believe, it is far more inconstant.
    • Chapter 16: The Coming of Winter
  • "You said that the mind is like the wind, but perhaps it is we who are like the wind. Knowing nothing, simply blowing through. Never aging, never dying"
    • Chapter 16: The Coming of Winter
  • Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in fight, searching the skies for dreams.
    • Chapter 18:
  • Once again, life had a lesson to teach me: It takes years to build up, it takes moments to destroy. Sure, I'd gotten tired of this tiny space, but I'd had a good home here. In the time it takes to swill two cans of beer, all had had sublimed like morning mist. My job, my whiskey, my peace and quiet, my solitude, my Sormerset Maugham, and John Ford collections-all of it trashed and worthless.
    • Chapter 19: Hamburgers,Skyline and Deadline
  • “That's wrong," she declared. "Everyone must have one thing that they can excel at. It's just a matter of drawing it out, isn't it? But school doesn't know how to draw it out. It crushes the gift. It's no wonder most people never get to be what they want to be. They just get ground down.”
    • Chapter 19: Hamburgers,Skyline and Deadline
  • "You got to know your limits. Once is enough, but you got to learn. A little caution never hurt anyone. A good woodsman has only one scar on him. No more, no less."
    • Chapter 24: Shadow Grounds
  • "You are not lost. It's just that your own thoughts are being kept from you, or hidden away. But the mind is strong. It survives even without thought. Even with everything taken away, it holds a seed-your self. You must believe in your powers."
    • Chapter 24: Shadow Grounds
  • First, about the mind. You tell me there is no fighting or hatred or desire in the Town. That this is a beautiful dream, and I do want your happiness. But the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either. No joy, no communion, no love. Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope.
    • Chapter 32, Shadow in the Throes of Death
  • Once, when I was younger, I thought I could be someone else. I'd move to Casablanca, open a bar, and I'd meet Ingrid Bergman. Or more realistically - whether actually more realistic or not - I'd tune in on a better life, something more suited to my true self. Toward that end, I had to undergo training. I read The Greening of America, and I saw Easy Rider three times. But like a boat with a twisted rudder, I kept coming back to the same place. I wasn't anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.
    • Chapter 33, Rainy-Day Laundry, Car Rental, Bob Dylan
  • "I never trust people with no appetite. It's like they're always holding something back on you."
    • Chapter 35, Nail Clippers, Butter Sauce, Iron Vase
  • Losing you is most difficult for me, but the nature of my love for you is what matters. If it distorts into half-truth, then perhaps it is better not to love you. I must keep my mind but loose you.
    • Chapter 38, Escape
  • Fairness is a concept that holds only in limited situations. Yet we want the concept to extend to everything, in and out of phase. From snails to hardware stores to married life. Maybe no one finds it, or even misses it, but fairness is like love. What is given has nothing to do with what we seek.
    • Chapter 39, Popcorn, Lord Jim, Extinction
  • "You yourself created this Town. You made everything here. The Wall, the River, the Woods, the Library, the Gate, everything. Even this Pool. I've known all along."
    "Then why did you not tell me sooner?"
    "Because you'd only have left me here like this. Because your rightful world is there outside." My shadow sits down in the snow and shakes his head from side to side. "But you won't listen, will you?"
    "I have responsibilities," I say. "I cannot forsake the people and places and things I have created. I know I do you a terrible wrong. And yes, perhaps I wrong myself, too. But I must see out the consequences of my own doings. This is my world. The Wall is here to hold me in, the River flows through me, the smoke is me burning. I must know why."
    • Chapter 40, Birds
  • Genius or fool, you don't live in the world alone. You can hide underground or you can build a wall around yourself, but somebody's going to come along and screw up the works.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1996-1997)[edit]

  • Money had no name of course. And if it did have a name, it would no longer be money. What gave money its true meaning was its dark-night namelessness, its breathtaking interchangeability.
  • But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at 4 o'clock in the morning.
  • He inherited from his mother's stories the fundamental style he used, unaltered, in his own stories: namely, the assumption that fact may not be truth, and truth may not be factual.

Kafka on the Shore (2002)[edit]

  • Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
    • Chapter One
  • And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.
    • Chapter One
  • On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library. It'd take a week to go into the whole thing, all the details. So I'll just give the main point. On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library.
    • Chapter One
  • I'm the lonely voyager standing on deck, and she's he sea. The sky is a blanket of grey, merging with the gray sea off on the horizon. It's hard to tell the difference between sea and sky. Between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.
    • Chapter Three
  • "My cell phone number," she says with a wry expression. "I'm staying at my friend's place for a while buy if you ever feel like sseeing somebody, give me a call. We can go out for a bite or whatever. Don't be a stranger, okay? 'Even chance meetings'... how does the rest of that go?" "'Are the results of karma.'"

"Right, right", she says. But what does that mean?
"That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest evens there's no such thing as coincidence."

    • Chapter Five
  • "According to Aristophanes in Plato's The Banquet, in the ancient world of legend there were three types of people.
    In ancient times people weren't simply male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everyone in half, right down the middle. So after that the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing half."
    • Chapter Five, Oshima
  • I pay the entrance fee at the desk, no questions asked, and get a key to a locker. After changing into shorts and a T-shirt in he locker room, I do some stretching exercises. As my muscles relax so do I. I'm safe inside this container called me. With a little click, the outlines of this being - me - fit right inside and are locked nearly away. Just the way I like it. I'm where I belong.
    • Chapter Seven
  • I stare at this ceaseless, rushing crowd and imagine a time a hundred years from now. In a hundred years everybody here - me included - will have disappeared from the face of the earth and turned into ashes or dust. A weird thought, but everything in front of me starts to seem unreal, like a gust of wind could blow it all away
    • Chapter Seven
  • "I think what Kafka does is give a purely mechanical explanation of that complex machine in the story, as sort of a substitute for explaining the situation we're in. What I mean is ... " I have to give it some more thought. "What I mean is, that's his own device for explaining the kind of lives we lead. Not by talking about our situation, but by talking about the details of the machine."
    • Chapter Seven, Kafka Tamura
  • "The term "spirit projection " sprang to mind. Are you familiar with it? Japanese folk tales are full of this sort of thing, where the soul temporarily leaves the body and goes off a great distance to take care of some vital task and then returns to reunite with the body. The sort of vengeful spirits that populate The Tale of Genji may be something similar. The notion of the soul not just leaving the body at death but-assuming the will is strong enough -also being able to separate from the body of the living is probably an idea that took root in Japan in ancient times. Of course there's no scientific proof of this, and I hesitate to even raise the idea."
    • Chapter Eight,
  • Nakata let his body relax, switched off his mind, allowing things to flow through him. This was natural for him, something he'd done ever since he was a child, without a second thought. Before long the borders of his consciousness fluttered around, just like the butterflies. Beyond these borders lay a dark abyss. Occasionally his consciousness would fly over the border and hover over that dizzying, black crevass. But Nakata wasn't afraid of the darkness or how deep it was. And why should he be? That bottomless world of darkness, that weighty silence and chaos, was an old friend, a part of him already. Nakata understood this well. In that world there was no writing, no days of the week, no scary Governor, no opera, no BMWs. No scissors, no tall hats. On the other hand, there was also no delicious eel, no tasty bean-jam buns. Everything is there, but there are no parts. Since there are no parts, there's no need to replace one thing with another. No need to remove anything, or add anything. You don't have to think about difficult things, just let yourself soak it all in. For Nakata, nothing could be better.
    • Chapter Ten
  • It's hard to tell the difference between sea and sky, between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.
  • "Chance encounters are what keep us going."
  • As I already explaned, I don't have any form. I'm a conceptual metaphysical object.
    • Colonel Sanders in Kafka on the Shore
  • Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through, is now like something from the distant past. We're so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology ... But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. And for me, what happened in the woods that day is one of these.
    • Chapter 12
  • I stood there for a while, holding Nakata tight in my arms, feeling like I wanted to die or disappear. Just over the horizon the violence of war went on, with countless people dying. I no longer had any idea what was right and what was wrong. Was I really seeing the real world? Was the sound of birds I was hearing? I found myself alone in the woods, totally confused, blood flowing from freely from my womb. I was angry, afraid , embarrassed-all of these rolled into one. I cried quietly, without making a sound.
    • Chapter 12
  • Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they're able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they're treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kid's hearts are malleable , but once they gel it's hard to get them back the way they were. Next to impossible, in most cases.
    • Chapter 12
  • People soon get tired of things that aren't boring, but not of what is boring.
    • Chapter 13
  • Works that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that you're attracted to Soseki's The Minder. There's something in it that draws you in, more than more fully realized novels like Kokoro or Sanshiro. You discover something about that work that tugs at your heart-or maybe we should say that work discovers you.
    • Chapter 13, Schubert
  • Now I know exactly how dangerous the forest can be. And I hope I never forget it. Just like Crow said, the world's filled with things I don't know about. All the plants and trees there, for instance. I'd never imagined that trees could be so weird and unearthly. I mean, the only plants I've ever really seen or touched till now are the city kind -neatly trimmed and cared-for bushes and trees. But the ones here -the ones living here -are totally different. They have a physical power, their breath grazing any humans who might chance by, their gaze zeroing in on the intruder like they've spotted their prey. Like they have some dark, prehistoric, magical powers. Like deep-sea creatures rule the ocean depths, in the forest trees reign supreme. If it wanted to, the forest could reject me-or swallow me up whole. A healthy amount of fear and respect might be a good idea.
    • Chapter 15
  • After a simple dinner I go out on the porch and gaze up at the stars twinkling above, the random scattering of millions of stars. Even in a planetarium you wouldn't find this many. Some of them look really big and distinct, like if you reached your hand out intently you could touch them. The whole thing is breathtaking. Not just beautiful, though -the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive

and breathing. And they're watching me. What I've done up till now, what I'm going to do-they know it all. Nothing gets past their watchful eyes. As I sit there under the shining night sky, again a violent fear takes hold of me. My heart's pounding a mile a minute, and I can barely breathe. All these millions of stars looking down on me, and I've never given them more than a passing thought before. Not just stars-how many other things haven't I I10ticecl in the world, things I know nothing about? I suddenly feel helpless, completely powerless. And 1 know I'll never outrun that awful feeling.

    • Chapter 15
  • When a war starts people are forced to become soldiers. They carry guns and go to the front lines and have to kill soldiers on the other side. As many as they possibly can. Nobody cares whether you like killing other people or not. It's just something you have to do. Otherwise you're the one who gets killed." Johnnie Walker pointed his index finger at Nakata's chest. "Bang!" he said. "Human history in a nutshell."
    • Chapter 16
  • "No such luck. " He smiles. "For better or for worse, I don't have that kind of power. If I sound like I'm always predicting ominous things, it's because I'm a pragmatist. I use deductive reasoning to generalize, and I suppose this sometimes winds up sounding like unlucky prophecies. You know why? Because reality's just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life. All you have to do is open a newspaper on any given day and weigh the good news versus the bad news, and you'll see what I mean."
    • Chapter 17, Oshima
  • I've experienced all kinds of discrimination," Oshima says. "Only people who've been discriminated against can really know how much it hurts. Each person feels the pain in his own way, each has his own scars. So I think I'm as concerned about fairness and justice as anybody. But what disgusts me even more are people who have no imagination. The kind T. S. Eliot calls hollow men. People who fill up that lack of imagination with heartless bits of straw, not even aware of what they're doing. Callous people who throw a lot of empty words at you, trying to force you to do what you don't want to. Like that lovely pair we just met." He sighs and twirls the long slender pencil in his hand. "Gays, lesbians, straights, feminists, fascist pigs, communists, Hare Krishnas-none of them bother me. I don't care what banner they raise. But what I can't stand are hollow people. When I'm with them I just can't bear it, and wind up saying things I shouldn't. With those women I should've just let it slide, or else called Miss Saeki and let her handle it. She would have given them a smile and smoothed things over. But I just can't do that. I say things I shouldn't, do things I shouldn't do. I can't control myself. That's one of my weak points.
    • Chapter 19, Oshima
  • You build up relationships like that one after another and before you know it you have meaning. The more connections, the deeper the meaning. Doesn't matter if it's eel, or rice bowls, or grilled fish, whatever. Get it?
    • Chapter 20
  • In the depths of our crater lake, everything is silent. The volcano's been extinct for ages. Layer upon layer of solitude, like folds of soft mud. The little bit of light that manages to penetrate to the depths lights up the surroundings like the remains of some faint, distant memory. At these depths there's no sign of life. I don't know how long she looks at me -not at me, maybe, but at the spot where I am. Time's rules don't apply here. Time expands, then contracts, all in tune with the stirrings of the heart.
    • Chapter 23, Kafka Temura
  • "The world of the grotesque is the darkness within us. Well before Freud and Jung shined a light on the workings of the subconscious, this correlation between darkness and our subconscious, these two forms of darkness, was obvious to people. It wasn't a metaphor, even. If you trace it back further, it wasn't even a correlation. Until Edison invented the electric light, most of the world was totally covered in darkness. The physical darkness outside and the inner darkness of the soul were mixed together, with no boundary separating the two. They were directly linked. Like this."
    • Chapter 23


  • "You still don't get it, do you? We're talking about a revelation here," Colonel Sanders said, clicking his tongue. "A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That's what's critical. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?"
    • Chapter 28, Colonel Sanders
  • Where does your responsibility begin here? Wiping away the nebula from your sight, you struggle to find where you really are. You're trying to find the direction of the flow, struggling to hold on to the axis of time. But you can't locate the borderline separating dream and reality. Or even the boundary between what's real and what's possible. All you're sure of is that you're in a delicate position. Delicate-and dangerous. You're pulled along, a part of it, unable to pin down the principles of prophecy, or of logic. Like when a river overflows, washing over a town, all road signs have sunk beneath the waves. And all you can see are the anonymous roofs of the sunken houses.
    • Chapter 29, A Boy Named Crow
  • "Listen- God only exists in people's minds. Especially in Japan, God's always been kind of a flexible concept. Look at what happened after the war. Douglas MacArthur ordered the divine emperor to quit being God, and he did, making a speech saying he was just an ordinary person. So after 1946 he wasn't God anymore. That's what Japanese gods are like-they can be tweaked and adjusted. Some American chomping on a cheap pipe gives the order and presto change-o - God's no longer God. A very postmodern kind of thing. If you think God's there, He is. If you don't, He isn't. And if that's what God's like, I wouldn't worry about it."
    • Chapter 30, Colonel Sanders
  • "Listen, every object's in flux. The Earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil-they're all fluid and in transition. They don't stay in one form or in one place forever. The whole universe is like some big FedEx box."
    • Chapter 30, Colonel Sanders


  • Anyone who falls in love is searching for missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who's in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It's like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven't seen in a long time. It's just a natural feeling. You're not the person who discovered that feeling, so don't go trying to patent it, okay?
  • There’s no war that will end all wars.
  • “It's like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”
  • “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library."
  • "In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
  • Closing your eyes isn't going to change anything. Nothing's going to disappear just because you can't see what's going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That's the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won't make time stand still.
  • Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.

IQ84 (2009-2010)[edit]

  • If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there's salvation in life. Even if you can't get together with that person.
  • “I can bear any pain as long as it has meaning.”
  • That's what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.
  • I'm a very ordinary human being; I just happen to like reading books.
  • It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.
  • I'm tired of living unable to love anyone. I don't have a single friend - not one. And, worst of all, I can't even love myself. Why is that? Why can't I love myself? It's because I can't love anyone else. A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else. Do you understand what I am saying? A person who is incapable of loving another cannot properly love himself.
  • I am nothing. I’m like someone who’s been thrown into the ocean at night, floating all alone. I reach out, but no one is there. I call out, but no one answers. I have no connection to anything.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013)[edit]

  • You can hide memories, but you can't erase the history that produced them.

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