Disinterested Narrators

One aspect of the crisis of democracy can be summed up in Henri Lefebvre's distinction between “everyday life” and “festival” and the ongoing blurring of these two worlds to create an atmosphere where spectacle reflects reality, and reality is spectacle. The United States has a president who is the embodiment of this blurring. A former reality TV star now has the ability to wage a world war using the vast arsenal of the United States, and all news has become ‘fake’ news in the eyes of many. Lefebvre’s distinction has dissipated. Entertainment and everyday life are synonymous. In this paper I analyze three Haruki Murakami novels (Kafka on the Short, A Wild Sheep Chase, Killing Commendatore) to argue that the end result of losing a sense between the everyday and the festival is disinterest. It is Murakami’s novels, through his detached narrators, that depict the real culprit, the real crisis of democracy: apathy. And furthermore, hope lies not only in engagement, but in remembering how art bridges the gap between the ‘everyday’ and ‘festival.’ For example, in Killing Commendatore, Murakami’s unnamed, detached narrator, finds a mysterious painting in the attic of a house he is borrowing, and in a cleverly written narrative unveils how art is the catalyst for engagement. Murakami’s protagonists (both male and female) are indifferent until the strangeness of the world makes them notice something other than nothing thorough art.

Haruki Murakami, Magical Realism, Art and Literature, Dystopian Literature

2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Jennifer Rea
    • Assistant Professor, English, Rockford University, United States Illinois, United States
    • I am an Assistant Professor of English at a small, midwest, liberal arts university located in Northern Illinois sixty miles outside of Chicago. My research interests include dystopian literature, Japanese literature, Medieval Literature, and poetry. I teach rhetoric, literature, and creative writing.