Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami warned against excluding outsiders and rewriting history as he accepted the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.
Murakami spoke Sunday in Odense, Denmark, the birthplace of the 19th century fairy tale writer. His speech titled "The Meaning of Shadows" cited Andersen's dark fantasy, "The Shadow," a story about a scholar who is eventually taken over by his shadow and killed.
Murakami said: "No matter how high a wall we build to keep intruders out, no matter how strictly we exclude outsiders, no matter how much we rewrite history to suit us, we just end up damaging and hurting ourselves."
His speech was somewhat abstract, but Japanese media have interpreted the wall and intruders as references to refugees arriving in Europe and the protectionist response.
Murakami said it's not just individuals but every society and nation that has a dark side. "It's not just individuals who need to face their shadows. The same act is necessary for societies and nations," he said, according to a full transcript of his speech published by the Asahi newspaper.
As in Anderson's lifetime, "we have to, when necessary, face our own shadows, confront them, and sometimes even work with them," he said. "That requires the right kind of wisdom and courage. Of course it's not an easy task. Sometimes dangers arise. But if they avoid it people won't be able to truly grow and mature."
Worst case, he said, "they will end up like the scholar in the story 'The Shadow' destroyed by their own shadow."
Murakami, 67, usually shies away from the public, but he has spoken out on various issues, including global peace, history and nuclear energy. He began writing running a jazz bar in Tokyo after finishing university. His 1987 romantic novel "Norwegian Wood" was his first best-seller, establishing him as a young literary star. Recent best-sellers include "1Q84" and "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage."
When the award committee chose Murakami, it said his imaginative prose embodies a global view and his capacity "to mix classic narrative art, pop culture, Japanese tradition, dreamlike realism and philosophical discussion makes him a fitting heir to the Andersen legacy."
The award carries a monetary prize of 500,000 Danish kroner ($74,000), as well as a bronze sculpture and a diploma. Previous winners include J.K. Rowling, the author of "Harry Potter" series, and Salman Rushdie, who wrote "Midnight's Children" and "The Satanic Verses."