Friday, November 4, 2016

The Meaning of Shadows

This morning I photographed my shadow, firmly attached to me. Although it was almost noon, the sun was quite low in the sky.

In 1847 Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Shadow, a short story that talks to the present time. Here's the bare details
A man gave his shadow permission to leave and explore the home across the street from his home.  
The shadow did not return for several years. It was now in human form, and the man and his former shadow became friends. 
After that visit the man did not see his former shadow for several years. When the shadow returned, it forced a role reversal. It was now the master. 
Ultimately, the shadow had his former master thrown into prison then executed.
It's no accident I read this dark story this week.

Last Sunday, Japanese writer Haruki Murakami was in Denmark to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. This is not quite the Nobel prize the bookmakers were betting Murakami would win this year. However, with this award he's in the company of writers like Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende, which isn't too shabby.

I've read most of Murakami's novels, so I wanted to read his acceptance speech, "The Meaning of Shadows." Unfortunately there is currently no transcript online, so I had to make do with a report in the Asahi Shibun:
In the speech, given in English, Murakami first talked about Andersen's story "The Shadow."
Then, he said, “Just as all people have shadows, every society and nation, too, has shadows. If there are bright, shining aspects, there will definitely be a counterbalancing dark side.
“At times, we tend to avert our eyes from the shadow, those negative parts, or else, try to forcibly eliminate those aspects. No matter how high a wall we build to keep intruders out, no matter how strictly we exclude outsiders, no matter how much we rewrite history to suit us, we just end up damaging and hurting ourselves," he also said. “You have to patiently learn to live together with your shadow and carefully observe the darkness that resides within you.”
Note: If you ever want to get into Murakami's works, I recommend starting with Kafka on the Shore or The Wind up Bird Chronicle

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