Haruki Murakami on Fiction in the 21st Century

Murakami: reality a and reality b

We often wonder what it would have been like if 9/11had never happened — or at least if that plan had not succeeded so perfectly. Then the world would have been very different from what it is now. America might have had a different president (a major possibility), and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars might never have happened (an even greater possibility).

Let’s call the world we actually have now Reality A and the world that we might have had if 9/11 had never happened Reality B. Then we can’t help but notice that the world of Reality B appears to be realer and more rational than the world of Reality A. To put itin different terms, we are living a world that has an even lower level of reality than the unreal world. What can we possibly call this if not “chaos”?

What kind of meaning can fiction have in an age like this? What kind of purpose can it serve? In an age when reality is insufficiently real, how much reality can a fictional story possess?

New York Times: Reality A and Reality B

(via Theoretick)

See also: Network Realism


  1. Can’t say I agree the world without the Iraq war is more plausible. The United States has a hundred year history of going after (apparently) low hanging fruit using causus belli of questionable nature.

    Nor was Iraq implicated in 9-11.

    It’s Murakami’s grip of actual history that is less real than reality.

  2. This kind of “post-millennial malaise” that Murakami describes sounds similar to Bruce Sterling’s notion of atemporality.

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