Contemporary and life-like connections to current events.

Contemporary literature is literature written after World War II through the current day. Products of contemporary literature mirror and reflect a society’s social and/or political perspectives, which the authors show through pragmatic characters and life-like connections to current events. When we talk about contemporary literature and think back to the beginning of it, we have to acknowledge the time period in which it began in, World War II and the neighboring events. The dismay of the war, including bombs, genocide and corruption, were the road that led us to this new kind of literature, it presented a way to share thoughts and feelings about these horrifying events. It is from these real-life motifs that a new period of writing was discovered. While there is not a specific type or structure for contemporary writing, each piece sends a different message from a person living through and after World War II. Yet, not all works revolve around the Holocaust or war accounts. Contemporary pieces of writing focus on speaking about the injustices in the world, as well as the propositions and questions that arose during this frightening time in global history. The war served as a stimulant for this change of mind, and the authors writing during that time deliberately and unknowingly elucidate this change in thinking through their writing.   Kafka on the Shore, published in Japan in 2002 by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, now translated into English, is an example of contemporary literature written about post war events. Comprising two separate but complementary plots, Kafka on the Shore jumps between the two, alternating each of them throughout the chapters. The odd-numbered chapters tell the story of 15-year old Kafka Tamura, who runs away from his father’s house to escape an Oedipal curse and commence his journey in search of his mother and sister. After numerous adventures, he finds asylum in a library in Takamatsu, managed by the detached and isolated character of Miss Saeki and the more sympathetic character, Oshima. The even numbered chapters tell the story of Nakata, an old man who lost most of his intelligence during an accident and as a result, acquired the ability to speak to cats. Nakata finds a part time job as a lost cat finder. One missing cat in particular, moves him far away from his home and out into the outside world for the first time in his life. He makes social acquaintance with a truck driver named Hoshino, who takes him on as a passenger in his truck and quickly becomes very attached to Nakata.Kafka on the Shore demonstrates a combination of pop culture, detail, reality, an interrelated plot, and dominant sexuality. It also features an increased focus on Japanese traditions, in particular, Shinto, a series of ritual practices to be carried out hastily in order to form a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. The power and artistry of music as a communicative artistic form is one of the fundamental themes of this novel. The title of the book itself, Kafka on the Shore, comes from a song Kafka is given on a record in the library where he found refuge. Philosophy is also an essential theme throughout the novel as many character dialogues and monologues are inspired by their own examinations of the world around them and their relationship to it. Beethoven’s music, specifically that of the Archduke Trio, is used as a compensating analogy to support the themes of the novel. Other conspicuous themes in the novel include; the importance of self-sufficiency, the relationship between dreams and reality, the idea of fate, and the subconscious mind. The frameworks of Kafka on the Shore is creative and original. Kafka and Nakata’s stories are told alongside each other, running alternatively. Kafka, the teenage boy, narrates his own story in the first person. While Nakata’s story, in contrary, is told in the third person. That choice in narration, in a cunning way, accurately describes his own way of talking and thinking as a consequence of a wartime calamity. Nakata’s accident made him lose a part of his intelligence, thus making him less expressive and fervent, which is why Murakami gave him a voice by way of third person, embodying to Nakata’s character itself. I found that very impressive and profound. In this story, the characters encounter ghosts, it rains fish and leeches, and the characters visit comprehensively different worlds, like the place that hangs between life and death. At some parts throughout the story, the subconscious of the characters will narrate the story and we see different sides to the characters. Murakami makes the reader feel like he/she is part of this surreal world, the audience feels like they are stepping inside of the characters shoes; for the younger audience, relating to Kafka may be easier to to share their feelings and thoughts relating to their own lives, their own relationship to the world and what they contribute to it. Kafka on the Shore is also amply filled with quotations from old ideologies, such as; Greek Gods, old English literature, and even Franz Kafka (also one of the protagonist’s name). Inclusively, Kafka at the beginning of the story runs away from his father’s home as an escape from an Oedipal prediction, which is related to Greek mythology. Although some parts of the novel were tedious and dragged along in a sense, I found that the supporting characters stood out, making them memorable to the story overall. The theme of this novel is dreary and disheartening, but it has a sense of humor in some parts, although it might not be the usual cheery type of humor most people are used too, but I find it made the story intricate and magnificent. Haruki Murakami writes in a Kafkaesque kind of style that makes his world fully authentic, convincing and sustainable. While this book might not be for everyone, there is no disagreement that Murakami has an ingenious grip at writing, and his technique and aesthetic is worthy of remarking.The Sympathizer, published in 2015 by Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen, is another excellent example of contemporary literature written post Vietnam War. The book tells the story of the South Vietnamese government in 1975 and living as an American exile in Los Angeles. The story is set as the flashback of a political prisoner who is being terrorized during a confession investigation. The American exile is told through the point of view of a half-Vietnamese, half-French undercover communist agent. The spy remains unnamed throughout the novel from the fall of Saigon, to the refugee camps, to the relocation in Los Angeles, to his time as a film consultant in the Philippines, and finally to his return and captivity in Vietnam. The point of view of this book is reflected on the literature of the war, not to mention how literary the Vietnam war was, and because of it, produced and created an endless number of pieces of fiction and nonfiction writing. Nguyen was born in Vietnam but was raised in the United States from a young age, this book reflects his perspective on the war and its aftermath. Through his writing, he gave the voiceless victims of the war a voice, and shined a new light and perspective to an event that happened more than forty years ago. Some universal themes in this book were: the fallacies between the East and West and the moral crisis everyone all over the world who are forced to choose between now what’s wrong or right but rather what is right and right. The protagonist and narrator, although nameless, was a very memorable character, whom because of his migration, was now Americanized, dividing his heart (his culture and background, Vietnam) and his mind (his new life in the U.S). By far the most distinctive stylistic feature of this book is the anonymous narrator who provides the commentary throughout the story. The narrator guides its reader through the discrepancies of the war and of American identity. The first person narration evolves from the foundation for the plot of the book: a confession from the protagonist/narrator to the communist law enforcement trying to get him to explain his exile. The communist impounders force him to write and rewrite his narration of the events, in an effort to correct or change his philosophical views on American and the South Vietnamese enemies. The question of race and ethnicity and the equivalent cultural class, is a repeating theme throughout the novel and predominantly debated in the scenes where the characters reach Los Angeles. The refugees surrender to the American way of life physically, but mentally and emotionally, they continue to long for their old lives back home in Vietnam, secretly scheming to make a return once and for all. Their adaptation consists of setting up small are specifically for native Vietnamese communities, where the order stays the same as in their homeland, Vietnam. In an attempt to arrange our protagonist a much needed breather from his complicated secret life, the narrator created a mini sub-story in the form of a movie in the Philippines which is supposed to praise the American efforts done during the Vietnam War. Once the movie is over, we are taken back to Los Angeles, where the Captain (protagonist) prepares for his return which ends up in his own imprisonment. This is when we learn who the mastermind between all the political games is, and we get to witness the practices of the Communist regime at its finest. Surrender was achieved through hard labour, heinous tortures based on Soviet techniques, mind games to the extreme, with the desire that the brain-washed brains would absorb the revolutionary ideas and beg for forgiveness from Vietnam. The imprisonment scenes are very intense and horrifying, yet the climax is predictable and the confession is barren of emotions, which was worrisome. Through this we can see how the writer failed to institute a connection with the reader.The Sympathizer is a heavy novel that focuses on the political realities of the fall of Saigon in 1975 and its aftermath. The construction of a rather cold and emotionless journal, provides a vivid understanding of the cultural ranges of the American-Vietnamese relationship and into the spying and manipulating world of the Communist regime. This book in comparison to Kafka on the Shore, is a book that mostly makes an incredible historical point of view of contemporary writing, but is a feeble story from the perspective of character development and action. Because the narrator of the novel is cold and aloof, as readers it is difficult to share thoughts, ideas, and feelings because there is not much to work with in those departments. The revelation at the end of the book is the insight that saves the narrator from utter despair and anguish. Despite everything that he had faced, his people and him still considered themselves revolutionary, they remained most hopeful of creatures (humans), a revolutionary in search of a revolution, although all they really wanted to do was live a normal life. This was the first time any real emotional connection was felt throughout the 382 pages in the book.