Haruki Murakami: “Knock, knock, I am your shadow!”

The first link I received from my friends immediately after my move to Odense led to the news that Haruki Murakami will come here to receive Hans Christian Andersen Award. A second later, I shared the good news on my Facebook wall, and likes and comments started to pour in. “Lucky you!”, “Go and tell us how is like”, “Oh, how I envy you!” and so on. However, one message was the one to bring me with feet on Earth again. It said: “Have you checked up to see if there are still tickets for the event?”
Obviously, I hadn’t. It is not my style to be organized and logic and farseeing. There weren’t any tickets, of course, they were sold out in a few minutes. But it is my style to find solutions and ways thought dead ends. And, in this case, this meant getting a press accreditation.

The event started with Odense Symphony Orchestra’s performance. Then, the silence. The audience was waiting becoming more and more silent. I don’t know how much time passed, I was somehow waiting for the first signs of impatience coming from the public (as usually happens). All of the sudden, everybody stands up and Murakami enters the hall. And then Crown Princess Mary.

The ceremony to follow was inspired and draw parallels between Murakami writings (scenes from novels) and HC Andersen’s books. For example, the Royal Danish Ballet School in Odense rendered a scene from Norwegian Woods, but was also link with Danish tradition and with Andersen himself as he trained like a ballet dancer in his childhood.
The award itself pays tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on authors all over the world. The authors who are chosen to receive it are those whose writings offer similarities to those of Andersen’s. So far, they were: JK Rowling, Paulo Coelho, Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende.

After receiving his award (a bronze statuette designed by sculptress Stine Ring Hansen, a diploma entitled ‘The Beauty of the Swan’ and a check for 500,000 kroner) Haruki Murakami spoke about the shadows. A leitmotiv in his writings, he shared the surprise and enchantment he experienced when reading, at the recommendation of his Danish translator, the fairy tale with the same name by HC Andersen. Then, like uncovering an invisible mirror he puts every member of the audience to think of and to confront with its own shadow. “You have to patiently learn to live together with your shadow and carefully observe the darkness that resides within you.” He asked us to face our shadows and not turn our back on them as they will “grow stronger and stronger and knock on your door one night: knock, knock, I am your shadow!”.
From where I sat, I saw people nodding their heads. He got us all, there we were, listening to him just to re-confirm the reason we love his novels. Because they make us confront with ourselves, “force” us to begin our personal journey of discovery.
“When I write a novel I don’t know what’s going to happen next in the story. And neither do I know how it’s going to end. As I write, I witness what happens next. For me, then, writing a novel is a journey of discovery. Just as children listening to a story eagerly wonder what’s going to happen next, I have the same exact feeling of excitement as I write,” said Murakami.
Besides shadows and his novels, I realize I particularly have something else in common with Murakami: the way we pronounce Odense, (so un-Danishly, I might say).
The second part of the event revealed other surprising moments. The Danish National Girls Choir performance was impressive, I have never heard anything like it before. The conductor was a show himself, conducting and communicating with every cell of his body. The “Seidokan” (traditional Japanese drum) was the moment when the public very disciplined with the interdiction of taking pictures or filming during the ceremony couldn’t bear it anymore and some made several attempts of capturing some glimpses of the event before it is gone forever.
The very Danish event ended even more Danish. Everybody stood up and sang “In Denmark I am born”, verses written by H.C. Andersen. I stuck to following the text from the program, listening to the singing and pronunciation from my left and my right, trying to guess what it was about till google translate, one of my recent shadows in my collection, would do that for me.

Photos by Jacob Keinicke.


Cresc copii, povesti si visuri.

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