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Hong Kong Book Fair

With Murakami ban, Hong Kong is once again the target of jokes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 3:01pm

The banning of the latest novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, titled Kishidancho Goroshi (Killing Commendatore), from the Hong Kong Book Fair after it was rated as “indecent” has sparked controversy and dominated headlines (“How Haruki Murakami novel got its ‘indecent’ rating in Hong Kong”, July 26).

The Obscene Articles Tribunal classified the book as “class II indecent materials” on July 10. This meant organisers of the annual Book Fair, which closed on July 24, had to pull the book. It may be sold at bookshops but only in plastic wrapping with a warning sticker attached, and with sales restricted to those aged over 18. Our public libraries have also barred under-18 readers from borrowing the book.

Internationally acclaimed Murakami’s novels have been translated into as many as 50 languages. He is considered one of the world’s great writers and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize many times. Many believe that his winning the prize is only a matter of time.

Watch: Fans storm book store as latest Murakami novel goes on sale in Japan

However, the tribunal may think otherwise. This same tribunal, with its exceedingly high sense of morality, once assessed Michelangelo’s David, that masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture completed in 1504, as indecent on account of nudity. That made it the target of jokes back in 1995. History is repeating itself more than two decades on, with its rating of Murakami’s novel taking many aback.

Rude David risks ridicule

In my view, a romantic movie with a couple of love scenes cannot be rated as pornographic. By the same token, a romantic novel with sexual substance is pretty much normal, and by no means should it have been pulled from the book fair.

Many Hongkongers see the incident as bringing shame to Hong Kong. For my part, I would see the tribunal’s move as simply childish, and an attempt to turn a diverse book fair into something filled only with comic books appealing to five-year-olds.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan