BERLIN – Novelist Haruki Murakami sent a message of encouragement to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters in an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony in Berlin, comparing them to former East Germany residents confined by the Berlin Wall and Palestinians trapped by the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Murakami is the first Japanese author to win the Welt Literature Prize (Welt Literaturpreis) from German newspaper Die Welt since the award was established in 1999.
Accepting the award on Friday, he spoke of his own memories of the Berlin Wall prior to its fall 25 years ago this weekend, and attributed ongoing conflicts throughout the world to a system of walls that drive people apart based on intolerance, greed and fear.
Murakami said it is the task of novelists to help readers penetrate these walls, and that harnessing the power of each person’s imagination “could be the starting point of something.”
A world without walls can be created “in the quiet but sustained effort to keep on singing, to keep on telling stories, stories about a better and freer world to come, without losing heart,” he said. “We can see (a world without walls) with our own eyes, we can even touch it with our own hands if we try hard.
“I’d like to send this message to the young people in Hong Kong who are struggling against their wall right now at this moment.”
Student-led blockades of major roads in Hong Kong have continued since Sept. 28 in response to an Aug. 31 decision by authorities in Beijing to restrict candidates for the territory’s 2017 leadership election to those vetted by a committee.
In February 2009, Murakami accepted the Jerusalem Prize despite calls to boycott it in the wake of Israel’s major military offensive in Gaza that ended the month before. Speaking in Jerusalem, he compared walls to authoritarian systems and military might, and likened eggs thrown against the walls to individual lives, concluding he “will always stand on the side of the egg.”
Murakami has had his stories translated into multiple languages, and is often mentioned as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. The English edition of his latest novel, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” topped The New York Times’ best-seller list in its category following its release in August.