Monday, June 18, 2012

bakhtin's chronotope and murakami moments


russian literary theorist mikhael bakhtin had a theory of the chronotope. it wasn't one of his more-developed theories and the closest he comes to a definition is: "in the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. the intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope" (quoted in the dialogic imagination: four essays, edited by michael holquist, 1981).

while this may sound like something generated by the postmodern generator, i think it's actually a way of explaining why when we read murakami, we enter a murakami world - one in which we still access this world, but from a parallel place, where it seems like a good idea to hang out for some time down a well, or make elaborate meals involving spaghetti late at night, or in which we lose our cat and comb jazz bars and hotels full of anonymous, locked doors looking for it, possibly in the company of a brilliant, but young and uneducated japanese girl. murakami time becomes real time and our world becomes filled with murakami moments.

i think what i like about entering that murakami space is that it is so much like the world i inhabit in my dreams - waking and dreaming intersect with no apparent cognitive dissonance in ways that are usually convincing only in dreams. yet they take on flesh and feel concrete and whole - they are, in other words, a chronotope. i think it's the mark of truly magical writing. it transports and transforms everything, including space and time.

i wonder what bakhtin would have made of murakami?


will said...

I've often wondered if there's a difference between fiction and non fiction simply because of the infinite possibilities within personal conceptualiations of time and space.

How is the past defined? It doesn't exist in the now and the future is a construct. Stories usually end with readers wordlessly speculating on what an author doesn't write. Which dimension are we then in?

I'm guessing we haven't evolved enough to grasp a fluid space time linguistic continuum.

julochka said...

i like that notion...a fluid space time linguistic continuum. i think murakami would like it too...tho' i often think about the linguistics involved of reading him in translation, tho' it seems daunting to learn japanese just to read him. i'm getting too old for that...

will said...

Having got all caught up in time and space, I failed to mention ... That's a cool photo.

julochka said...

thanks! I did think it was a bit hard-boiled wonderland myself. :-)