“The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Lastly

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October tomorrow!, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this series here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Boku has made his decision to leave the Town. He chooses to stay true to his dark dream, his dark mind – his shadow – rather than stay in the Town with kimi. This is the opposite of the result of Hard-boiled Wonderland, where he stays because he cannot “forsake the people and places and things I have created” (399). This shows the crucial difference between the Town in the two texts – in Hard-boiled Wonderland, the Town is clearly part of boku, but in “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall,” I think it’s actually kimi: Boku is unwilling to lose himself in another person, even if it means a blissful and sincere connection with another.

So he jumps.

And on the other side, here is what he has to say:


Words die.

Every second words are dying. Words die in alleyways, in attics, in the wilderness, and in waiting rooms at stations with the collar on their coat still turned up.

What can I communicate to you? Everything disappears like hitting a light switch. Click – OFF. That’s the end.

I’ve buried too many things already.

I’ve buried sheep, cows, refrigerators, supermarkets, and words.

I don’t want to bury anything else.

But nonetheless, I must continue to speak. That’s the rule.


Long ago I chose the Town surrounded by the Wall, and in the end I abandoned it. I still don’t know whether or not it was the right thing to do.

I survive, and now I’m writing this. The stink of death still surrounds me. I sleep with dark dreams, and I wake with dark thoughts. The path I walk is dark, and it gets darker with each step I take.

Everything is being lost. It will continue to be lost. The songs that moved me long ago are gone, and the scenery that gently held me is gone, too. The silent darkness also blots out a huge number of endearing words.

But I have not a single regret.

I think of the Town surrounded by the Wall as I watch my shadow stretched out on the wall of my room (now with nothing to say) in the long, dark night. I think of the tall Wall, of you under the faint light bulbs in the Library, of the beasts and the sound of their hooves echoing on the streets, of the willows swaying in the wind, and of the chill winter wind that blows through the factory street empty of all people.

There’s nothing more I have to lose. That’s my only salvation. Like the wind I felt when I was sixteen, everything passes through my body. I did lose the Town, but my thoughts remain in the Town somewhere even now.

Forever…, you said. Forever. I won’t forget you, just as you won’t forget me. Thoughts of the riverside in summer, and thoughts of the bridge in winter when the wind blows.



On a cloudy autumn evening, I suddenly hear the echo of the horn. The sound must make it to my ears through a gap somewhere in that uncertain Wall. Riding on the cold wind that blows down from the Northern Ridge.

This concludes Murakami Month 2010. Watch the Nobel Prize announcement tomorrow, and look for more translation next year.

10 thoughts on ““The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Lastly

  1. Whoo! This novella is in his complete works right? Before that was it collected anywhere else besides the original lit mag publication? Looking forward to tomorrows announcement. Fingers crossed as always, but I’m still not convinced it’s the year of the murakami.

    Love that words die section.

  2. Nope, not included in his Complete Works. As far as I know, Bungakukai is the only place it’s ever been published. I got my copy from the National Diet Library.

    I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t get it this year. It would be kind of bittersweet if the win was always linked with 1Q84…such a disappointing book…

  3. My theory is he won’t get it because even though it’s out and there’s all this bru-ha-ha, I can’t imagine the Academy has read it since there’s no English (or German or Swedish) translation out yet.

    I only have your opinion to go by, but if it’s not as good as you say, it’d be nice if it were linked to a “better” book. Technically the Prize goes for life-work and not a specific book, but it’s pretty obvious Kenzaburo Oe is linked to “A Personal Matter” since he won it in 1994 right after the English translation came out. The same with Toni Morrison and Beloved the year before (or after?).

    As long as he gets it before he dies, which fingers crossed and knocking on wood, won’t be any time soon.

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