JERUSALEM – Novelist Haruki Murakami won the Jerusalem Prize for his “artistic achievements and love of people” Sunday, becoming the first non-European-language writer to receive the Israeli literary prize.
In his speech at the ceremony, Murakami, 60, stressed that each person must work to stop states and organizations from getting out of control, apparently criticizing Israel’s recent large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Murakami said he thought that attending the ceremony might give the impression that he supports Israel’s dependence on its overwhelming military but said he eventually decided to “speak rather than say nothing.”
During his 15-minute speech in English, he warned that the system, which is supposed to protect people, “sometimes takes on a life of its own and it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others coldly, efficiently and systematically.”
In writing novels, he always keeps in mind a high, solid wall, and an egg that breaks against it. “I will always stand on the side of the egg,” he said.
The wall is a metaphor for the system and the egg represents each person’s soul enclosed in a fragile shell, Murakami said.
“We are all fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called the system. . . . To all appearances, we have no hope . . . the wall is too high and too strong. . . . If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our utter uniqueness,” he said.
“Each of us possesses a tangible living soul. The system has no such thing. We must not allow the system to exploit us,” he added.
While he received loud applause from the audience of around 700, a middle-aged man said he was offended due to the speech’s political content. He said it is wrong to criticize Israel when receiving a prize from the nation.