Literature and Real Life

Whenever I read a novel that is very foreign, non-Western in nature, I grant a surreal quality to it. “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami is set in Tokyo and is about the struggle against evil. The protagonist, Toru Okada, is seemingly a character of benign passivity. Is this a Zen like quality that all Japanese have or am I missing an essential element of the novel?

But when you think about history as I often do, it also has a surreal quality to it. The last quarter of the 17th century in England has so much happening–great building, technological and scientific advancement, plague, pestilence and fire and a continuing war between Catholicism and Protestantism. It all seems more than can sensibly fit in the moment.

Ultimately, real life is always an interpretation, just as novels are a form of history and history is a form of novel. It is the interpretation that we give to what we are reading that makes something real and that is all that matters. If we can convince others about our interpretation, we can actually change history. That is a scary thought.

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