"People want to be bowled over by something special. Nine times out of ten you might strike out, but that tenth time, that peak experience, is what people want. That’s what can move the world. That’s art."
— Haruki Murakami - South of the Border, West of the Sun
I would like to write down a little story related to South of the Border, West of the Sun. It surely won’t be of interest for everyone but I still hope some of you will take a minute to read it.
There used to be a literary talk on German TV where literary critics discussed the latest books of several national and international authors. In June 2000, when “SOTB, WOTS” was translated into German and the book became a bestseller, it also became an issue on this show. While Murakami’s novel was rated very good by three of the four participating critics, one of them, a woman named Sigrid Löffler, didn’t like it at all. According to her it wasn’t “even litarature” and “in the best case literal junk food”. She especially disliked the sex scenes in the book and called them vulgar and unerotic.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, another much more well-known critic who is famous for tearing books apart & devastating ratings and who was absolutely delighted with the book then made a point of shredding Mrs. Löffler’s opinion to pieces in a most amusing way. He also called one of the love scenes in the book one of the best he had read in years (and the man reads a lot). Mrs. Löffler left the show soon after that and only a few months later it was eventually cancelled after almost 15 years on-air.
This means Murakami is indirectly responsible for a German TV scandal and the end of a long-lived show. Murakami is aware of what happened back then and became interested in Marcel Reich-Ranicki whose biography he read soon after that.
Mrs. Löffler turns 70 years old today and this “incident” is all over the German media again which caused me to write this little anecdote down for you guys. I highly recommend reading Mr. Reich-Ranicki’s biography or at least reading the wikipedia article on him. He’s an extremely interesting man.
For anyone who understands German, a video of the book discussion can be watched here. Unfortunately there aren’t any subtitles available but I might add some if anyone’s interested.
Even if you can’t speak German, just watch Mrs. Löffler’s face at the end of the video when Reich-Ranicki’s finished crushing her.