Whenever a new Haruki Murakami book comes out, I kind of disappear for a few days and get lost in his Japanese world of mysterious people, jazz music and whisky. I am so excited that in exactly 1 month I will finally be visiting Japan for the first time. If anyone knows where Murakami hangs out, please let me know. It’s not like I plan on stalking him or anything…
Anyway, now that I’m becoming quite comfortable with the Chinese language, I decided to start a new challenge: reading Murakami’s books in Chinese!! Of course if I could read the original Japanese words that’d be even better, but well, I might need
a few ten years first. My Chinese teacher is extremely accommodating with my weird requests of things I want to study, such as discussing Murakami’s magical, fictitious world in Chinese. Last week my homework was to share my opinion on his views of living a simple life that’s more in-tune with the cycles of nature. We were reading an excerpt from “What I talk about when I talk about running” and actually a lot of my views on life are similar to Murakami’s. This is probably due to the fact that he’s had a huge influence on how I view things. I started reading him when I was 16 years old and back then I’m not entirely sure I fully understood what I was reading, but I loved how simply he wrote. That’s a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it?! Basically he writes the most beautiful, simple stuff but it’s fully-loaded with a whole bunch of metaphors and deep, dark feelings. I think my positive streak tends to haze over the depressing parts and just focus in on the beautiful encounters and the way everything always seems to be connected. That’s what life is like to me.
Here’s a translation of the Chinese essay I wrote. Ha, it feels pretty cool to be translating my original essay back into my native language. I still can’t believe I understand Chinese. Today on the bus I was having a conversation with myself in my head (as you do) and only when I got off the bus did I realise it was in Chinese. Sometimes I actually have to translate my thoughts into English because they are constantly occurring in this foreign tongue. It blows my mind. Learning a language is so fulfilling, really!
So here is my English translation (it will probably sound pretty lame but in Chinese I promise it’s better…I think):
Haruki Murakami and Siobhan imagine what it’d be like to live a simple life
The first time I read a book by Murakami, I felt so moved, in a way that I can’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. Even though I didn’t fully understand everything he was talking about, I immediately became addicted to his style of writing. His books have really influenced my way of thinking, and during my teenage years they made me want to travel to Japan to experience what city life is like there. Growing up, I always lived in a small village in the countryside. The first time I actually experienced the big city life was when I moved to China. I remember walking down the streets of Guangzhou and staring up at all the huge skyscrapers, the constant mass of people swirling around me on all sides. During those days I sometimes felt like I was really living inside one of Murakami’s stories. Most of his stories have one main protagonist who is almost always a bit of a lone-wolf. In Scotland I never felt lonely, but after coming to China I suddenly understood what it could feel like to be all alone in a strange city. Now I’m living in Shenzhen and even though the population is much bigger than Scotland’s, I still sometimes feel a little bit lonely because most of the people living in this city are still strangers to me.
In Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running”, he talks about how he wishes to have a more simple life. He thinks that running his own jazz bar was an amazing experience, but also extremely difficult. During that time he realised that if he really wanted to give writing 100%, he needed to make some drastic life adjustments. I agree with him. I really believe in living a healthy life, going to bed early and waking up early. During my grandparents’ days, this was actually the norm, and everyone lived much healthier lifestyles. People who get up early and go to be early seem to live longer. I think there’s something in that…Nowadays, in cities, it’s almost as if we’re animals living in a zoo. When we walk down the street it’s like we’ve forgotten all our manners and only care about ourselves and where we are going. This way of living is seriously messing up our world. I wish that we could go back to living a more simple life, a life that is at one with nature. It’s about time we throw these bad habits away and get back to what life is actually about.
In his book, Murakami also touches on the subject of education and how some changes need to be made. Education here in Asia is very different from the system I experienced back in Scotland, whereby when we turn 16 years old we can choose exactly which classes we want to take. This kind of open-minded education system means that we can pursue our individual passions without having to follow a strict regime. If you don’t like maths, or believe that there is no bone in your body that connects with maths, you can choose something more suitable, something that is more aligned with your chosen path. In my school there was no need for us to have to tolerate a subject that we had no passion for. I know I was very lucky. This kind of education meant that from a young age I was able to start developing my independence, chase after my dreams and live a more free, honest life. There was no pretending. If I wanted to study something, I could study it, and vice versa. This also meant that from a very young age we were able to start nurturing and planning for our future.
I often imagine what it’d be like to be a successful writer like Murakami. Of course this is just a dream, and I am, what a lot of people would call a ‘dreamer’. Murakami is my writing idol. He manages to combine plots of mystery and magic, with elements of reality mingled in there too. This combination really excites me. Seriously, his stories are beautiful.
I can’t wait to go to Hong Kong and buy his latest book. I’ve waited for so long and cannot wait to see what he’s come up with this time. I also can’t wait to save money so that I can live a more relaxing life. One day I want to move back to Scotland and live in a tiny cottage in the countryside. Everyday I will wake up to the sounds of birdsong and fall asleep with the first shades of black. This kind of lifestyle will be very peaceful.
Below is the Chinese version, although I apologise to all my Taiwan friends for writing this in simplified Chinese. Believe me, I do not want to convert to the simple characters but I’m studying for HSK and I need to become more familiar with these strange simplified ones. Oh, but traditional characters will always have my heart.
我第一次读到村上春树的书,我被感动得说不出话来.那时候,虽然有的感觉我不能体会,但是我已经迷上了他的写作方式. 他的小说影响到我,让我想去日本,过大城市里的生活.我从小一直住在乡下. 搬到中国的时候那是我第一次住在大城市里. 我记得, 在广州走在街上的时候,看到那么高的大楼, 碰到那么多人, 我常常想象我活在村上春树的小说里. 他的小说里通常有一个很孤单的主人公. 我在苏格兰的时候没有这样的感觉,可是来中国以后有时候也会感到孤单.深圳的人口比苏格兰的多,可是因为我大部分的人不认识, 所以一个人有一点孤单.
在村上春树的文章里,他说他想过比较简单的生活. 他觉得经营自己的酒吧辛苦得不得了.如果他要好好儿地写小说,他需要改变生活方式. 我同意他的看法.我也觉得早睡早起是最健康的生活方式.在我外婆外公的年代, 这样的生活方式是非常常见的. 在那个时代, 大家都很长寿. 现在在城市里,我们好像变成动物园里的动物. 我们走路的时候对别人没有礼貌, 只管自己的生活. 这样的做法让我们的世界变得很糟糕. 我希望我们都可以回归我们祖先那种自然的生活方式, 然后慢慢地改掉我们的坏习惯.
除了这个问题,村上春树也觉得我们的教育体系应该有所改变. 东亚的教育体系跟苏格兰的差别很大. 在苏格兰，我们到十六岁的时候可以选自己喜欢的课.这样开明的教育体系让我们国家的年轻人很满意.如果我们不喜欢数学,或是觉得自己没有数学细胞,我们可以选别的比较适合的课.我们不需要忍受讨厌的课. 我知道我很幸运.从年轻的时候我开始独立的生活. 这样自由的教育体系让我们的社会很安定. 我们会追求理想的工作,理想的生活. 我们有想做的事情就可以去做. 有的人很早就开始计划他们的将来.
我常想象有一天我也可以当一名成功的小说家, 跟村上春树一样. 这只是梦想而已, 我真的是一个梦想家. 村上春树是我的偶象. 他的小说情节都很神奇, 还有现实的描述. 在小说里, 这两个要素是最令人兴奋的组合. 村上春树写的小说非常美丽.
我好期待去香港买他最新的一本书. 我等了很久, 真等不及早一点开始读. 我也等不及存钱以后开始过自由的生活. 我打算回苏格兰,住在乡下的小村舍. 我每天听到鸟唱歌的时候起床, 天色变暗了就准备睡. 这样会让我觉得很安宁.