"What makes this novel special is that the author, Ryu Murakami, is a keen observer of the society and he openly criticize Japanese society. He is not a false writer who praises and hides the evils of society as if everything is good. He told the hard truth, not faking to be positive or optimistic. ” This time, we talked to philosopher S. Molor-Erdene about his latest translated novel, “Tokyo Miso Soup”-You translated three novels from Korea, China and Japan. Why are you interested in Asian novels lately?
-Generally, attitude towards life and world, faith and biological features are similar among Asian people. When you learn about Asian novels, we understand more about Asians, therefore we can understand ourselves. We didn’t write any novel about our society with good and bad, thus we understood something adventurous, distant from life, something not related to truth as literature. Please learn about literature in right way. Literature writes about both good and bad, even writes about ugliest things, sometimes it can write about subjects that are even hard to read. When you can write about horrible subjects, that people hate, it is helpful for readers. Then we can get rid of misconceptions of life. When you come to life after reading a book or a poem that praises love, you are shocked by the love that has ruined the life of a person. We meet ugly love; rather it isn’t that love itself is ugly. Because we do not bring up many topics at all, all the problems of our society are hidden. If all of them are written in novel, people can understand and reach enlightment.
-It seems all three novels are similar in some kind of ways…
-Their novels wrote all subjects of young people such as love, failure, unfortune etc. People can see themselves in the novel and can understand that this is my problem; I can solve it like this. It is same as receiving advice from someone. People who read Korean novel might think “I was in this situation, I really thought of dying”, yet the book tells that no need to do that, art will resolve it. It is telling that you can get rid of your suffering through beautiful painting, novels and music. There is lots of art in the novel. On the other hand, it is giving the solution. Chinese novel is about young people who came into the city, how complicated it is for young people to start their life, how much money they need at first. Japanese novel is about what kind of jobs young people do to have money as soon as possible, it even shows how they pimp women to sex. Literature is finding yourself among them, resolving your own live, get an idea. If not, what is the objective of literature?
-Does it mean we can solve our problem by reading novels?
-Read a novel if you want to know about love. Read a novel if you want to know good and bad of human being. Read a novel, if you want to know about social issues. If you want to learn about a certain country, read their novel. This book tells a lot about Japanese characters and how they receive a stranger. When we see the foreign people we, Mongolians suck-up to them, treat them, and in the end lose everything. Japanese are never that hospitable. Only people with problems come from abroad, but people who have no problems at home will never come abroad. I have a problem that is why I went to Germany. There was a problem of getting an education. There was no opportunity to get an education in my homeland. There were no teachers or professors. I had to go to Germany to solve my problem.
-Philosophical novel was an interesting word.
-Life itself is philosophy. There is nothing in life without philosophy. Because philosophy didn’t come into Mongolia, we understand as if philosophy is something separate. Just as same as understanding literature is something nice, because it didn’t come to us. It has been 100 years since we understood philosophy is as separate from human life. Today, now it is time to understand philosophy. Life is philosophy. Philosophy is life. There is no subject in life without philosophy. Philosophical novel isn’t a separate novel. For example, some novels are for travel or education and reader learns a lot from it. Or there are religious novels. This novel contains humanity’s philosophy of good and beautiful, ugly and bad, knowledge, aesthetic, moral subjects, therefore it is emphasized as philosophical. Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov” is religious novel. “Crime and Punishment” is philosophical novel. Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” is philosophical, almost novel of feminism.
-More about the writer…
-He is Ryu Murakami, not Haruki Murakami. Ryu Murakami has experience in writing novel since a long time ago. He is honorable and popular writer in his own country. He wrote a lot of subject about young people. He is very good critic of society. On the other side, he writes movie scripts and he is a movie director. He is multitalented, highly educated and fierce man. Generally, a writers needs to be highly educated. One shouldn’t write about the world however he wants and with his own limited thinking. Highly educated and skilled person must write a novel by looking at it above everything else. “Times” magazine named him as ten people who will change Japan. He is someone who devoted all his work for his country and to solve issues of his society.
-Reading this novel was leading to many thoughts about human good and bad.
-The idea behind it is that we can never value someone based on their appearance and image in the first meeting. Therefore, one should never say this is good or this is bad person. You know a person’s good and bad by listening to their childhood. People who have seen bad things in childhood and struggled with them are very difficult later in life. Because they were never close to good, therefore easy to be guided by bad things. They are bad at understanding good things. The book tells when such people are given the taste of good things, they become extremely emotional. The reason why Frank becomes a “bad” man is due to his childhood, his parents and American society. Frank never had a loyal friend in America. He couldn’t find a close friend, who criticizes him and tells him the truth. After coming to Japan, he met Kenji and he was a good friend to him just in two days. When someone communicates to him in human ways, how beautifully he communicates back. That is why the world and society needs people like Kenji.
If bad things move inside a person, one can be worst person ever. In other words, how ugly man reacts to ugly things. People who can move good things in people are good of society. Kenji is correcting mistakes of Frank’s parents. Frank tells himself that he is who destroys and punishes useless people in society.
-All three characters have a father issue. Where did the parenting process go wrong?
- In general, it shows how important an early age to become a human being. What a big mistake parents make. When Frank was a child, his parents did not discuss with him what is going on and just took him to the hospital. In our country, they take it to the monk. We grow up with such cold parents. But the other Japanese boy, Kenji, had never seen anything as bad as that American boy. Because Japanese society is very responsible society. Kenji says, "My father was not there," It is true that I missed my father. But my mother raised me well. There was nothing missing. That's why I can't be such a bad person.” But Kenji grew up as a child without self-confidence. Her mother likes him to go to the university, but he thinks he can not. On the other hand, he does not do bad things to others, he is distracting himself, and he does not fight forward. He is discouraged. Kenji's girlfriend also lost her father and has boyfriend in her early age.
She likes to come to Kenji’s place because she lives in a small place with her younger brother and mother. She doesn't have her own room. She leaves home in a hurry and goes back to home only after everyone sleeps. She feels uncomfortable in her home. So, even Kenji is not in his home, she still stay at his house and listen to music. The problems of such young people are beautifully described in the book. But both Kenji and Frank are ultimate "gentlemen." How he thinks, protects his girlfriend, being moral, and solves his own problems. Our Mongolian guys almost understand that giving roses and Swarovski jewelry is a “gentleman”.
- Mongolian youth do not have their own room; they seem to decide everything with their parents?
- If young people are always hindered and decisions are made on their behalf, they will be against that decision. It's dangerous to pressure them too much. It's important to have your own room and freedom. This is a young man's problem. After all, a young person only gets life experience by not knowing anything and trying and failing. The novel also reminds us not to judge young people every time they fail.
- This novel, written 20 years ago, seemed to tell all the problems we are facing in our society right now ...
- Yes. Under the disguise of foreign tourists, foreign men come to have sex with Asian women. That sex tourism is dangerous under the name of tourist is a precautionary measure. Of course, old men come to sleep with young Mongolian girls. In Thailand, for example, it is common for retired foreign men to have sex with young Thai girls. I would like to warn you to be careful in a society like ours, which is open, messy, and worships foreigners, and it is very easy to lose your head in cash. The young person loves all kinds of fancy branded goods, so one could think, only one night and I can buy brand goods, iphone 9 or 10. One night will eventually be a hundred nights. And then it will be a professional night. The novel enlightens the society. It's a pity why we have never been able to implement such a beautiful literature in our country. Only in the 21st century has world literature entered to us.
"Kenji's only 20 years old, yet he seems to be very mature for his age?"
- Features of Japanese society. It is a characteristic of a Japanese mother to keep her child by her side from a very young age and raise the child to be a fully capable child. Japanese mothers are not like our mothers, “get married, get child, get a job” Now in our country children are having kid and it becomes very messy. A Japanese mother takes her raw child with her and take care it like a rose and then kid is out of the house. So there is no problem for a Japanese person to enter society. They are very mature and understand life early on, they do not care so much about many things.
Tourists from Japan came to Mongolia are amazed to see how "cute" and innocent we are. Is it possible to have such a "naive" people exist, they say. Our "cute" young men come to Sumo and just being not disciplined. But Japanese sumo wrestlers are very mature. It must be the secret of the Japanese people that Japanese mothers correct every mistake, help their kid understand it by themselves, make everything clear, make them aware of themselves, and raise them to be able to behave independently.
- Will such a story be difficult for us?
- We are making it difficult. The most difficult subjects are education, physics and mathematics. The lightest topics are indiscipline, sex, nonsense, and crazy talk. It is probably the easiest subject in our country because it is easy to get a diploma in physics and mathematics. The country and its people need such people who are open-minded, enlightened, critical of society, and write about it openly. If you don't expose the lies, if you just praise, there will be no cleansing, no reform, and no bloodshed in that society.
When we have a lot of garbage, the government, the teacher or the parents say, "there is no garbage”. If you say there is garbage, they will destroy you. Critical person is seen as not a patriot or spy of another country. But in Japan, they give this person big literary award. Criticism is good. We have to get rid of our wrongdoings quickly and go to the right way. Not holding each other’s hand and saying everything is okay. Only children cry when they hear bad things about themselves. “Children society” is a society that cries so much when criticized. In fact, we should be happy to be criticized. That's why writers are the eyes and ears of the society.
- There are a lot of "empty face" people in the literature. I think we have lot of such people.
- Parents only talk about money, not love. Of course you need money for your development and making a happy living. But people only spend their money on expensive branded goods. No sense. After all, money should be spent on having a good and happy life. It's as if they only need branded products with stamps and labels. In such a meaningless society, such meaningless people make people's lives empty. In other words, the lives of people with such meaningless parents are so lonely, after brand goods, and go to bars in the evenings expecting good words and warmth from other people. There is no topic to talk about. Loneliness does not mean being alone, it means feeling alone among people.
The Japanese girls in the story are not trying to sleep with a man because they don't have money, but they are just bored and greedy to buy the next brand products. However women from poor Latin countries sleep with men to feed their poor families behind. This is the ugly life of ugly capitalism, which says that you are not human unless you have brand stuff.