If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.

Jerusalem Prize

The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society is a biennial literary award given to writers whose work has dealt with themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government. It is awarded at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, and the recipient usually delivers an address when accepting the award.


So I have come to Jerusalem. I have a come as a novelist, that is – a spinner of lies.

Novelists aren’t the only ones who tell lies – politicians do (sorry, Mr. President) – and diplomats, too. But something distinguishes the novelists from the others. We aren’t prosecuted for our lies: we are praised. And the bigger the lie, the more praise we get.

The difference between our lies and their lies is that our lies help bring out the truth. It’s hard to grasp the truth in its entirety – so we transfer it to the fictional realm. But first, we have to clarify where the truth lies within ourselves.

Today, I will tell the truth. There are only a few days a year when I do not engage in telling lies. Today is one of them.

When I was asked to accept this award, I was warned from coming here because of the fighting in Gaza. I asked myself: Is visiting Israel the proper thing to do? Will I be supporting one side?

I gave it some thought. And I decided to come. Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I’m told. It’s in my nature as a novelist. Novelists can’t trust anything they haven’t seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands. So I chose to see. I chose to speak here rather than say nothing.

So here is what I have come to say.

If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.

Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.

I have only one purpose in writing novels: to draw out the unique divinity of the individual. To gratify uniqueness. To keep the system from tangling us. So – I write stories of life, love. Make people laugh and cry.

We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us – create who we are. It is we who created the system.

I am grateful to you, Israelis, for reading my books. I hope we are sharing something meaningful. You are the biggest reason why I am here.

Source: Jpost


Murakami’s fiction, often criticized by Japan’s literary establishment, is humorous and surreal, and at the same time digresses on themes of alienation and loneliness. Through his work, he was able to capture the spiritual emptiness of his generation and explore the negative effects of Japan’s work-dominated mentality. His writing criticizes the decrease in human values and a loss of connection between people in Japan’s society. (Source)

Further Reading:

9 thoughts on “Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society 2009: Haruki Murakami

  1. I see Murakami’s problem with his country’s literary establishment as similar to Coelho’s in Brazil. They’re both extremely popular writers who are very smart and skilled but who tend to write pop stuff that bothers the critics. Problem is, when the critics say “well, that’s not literature”, the gazillion readers cry “elitism” and force the establishment to shut up.

  2. Funny huh, his own people dislike his stuff. I love his work as you just don’t know what to expect from them all the time. And it gets you to turn the page, effortlessly. He touches on so many things as also takes our imagination for a roll, so yeah. (:

  3. What a beautiful moving speech. Love the bit about the egg. I think may be his own countrymen find the topics he focuses on, extremely touchy. Rather than praise him for highlighting certain negative plights of society, they chose to criticize him. It’s a pity that happens.

  4. Ayumikat,

    Indeed, a great speech 🙂

    I see, that may be one of the reasons for criticism.

    – – –


    I am going to read some of his books, the only question is where should I start? 🙂

  5. I first started with After Dark, which I found a suitable start. I don’t think I’m reading them in chronological order, but based from reading experience that book is a fitting… commencement? (:

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