Always On The Side Of The Egg

I recently came across this gem of a speech delivered by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

He was in Israel, accepting the Jerusalem Prize, given to writers whose work deals with themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government.

An excerpt:

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them.

Judging by the comments on the speech, it appears the metaphor was lost on many of the readers. A Philosopher wrote:

…If the situation were reversed and the Palestinians were instead in possession of tanks, there wouldn’t be any eggs left in the middle-east.

The wall we build is exactly to protect us, as eggs, from the wolf lurking outside. And if the terrorists didn’t use their own eggs as shield, they wouldn’t break either.

Thankfully, at least one person understood. AT wrote:

Murakami isn’t suggesting that Israel is the system and Palestine the egg. The System is the Israeli government and the army and the dangerous ideas of Zionism; it’s also Hamas and Fatah and the networks of terror. The two aren’t exclusive.

The eggs are not just the Palestinian civilians slaughtered by the Israeli army for political gain; they’re also the Israeli civilians, and the soldiers sent to war, and the people convinced to blow themselves up as suicide bombers, and – perhaps most of all – the precious few on both sides crying “Stop! This is madness.”

Read the entire speech here.


  1. Thanks for passing this along, Ian. Summer’s coming: almost time to devour Murakami’s last few efforts!

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