Last Days of Empire: DeLillo’s America and Murakami’s Japan
Don DeLillo’s Underworld and Haruki Murakami’s The Windup Bird Chronicle anticipated in a literary way the public debate over the existence of contemporary empire in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and subsequent wars. However, these novels focus on individual experiences and specific cultural aspects of their respective economic superpowers, America and Japan, and are not explicitly political or ideological. Both novels use the history of war in the modern era as a source of memory for individuals in the novels, including memory objects, linking these individuals to specific people in the past. Historical experiences and present experiences of these people are connected through a range of related themes. These include “internal” and “external” wars and violence, with the imagery of games and war as interchangeable; nationally specific religion, superstition, and folk beliefs intersecting with contemporary electronic “magic” such as the internet; and empires past and present that are in an advanced state of decay, abroad through the legacy of lost wars and domestically in the urban “underworld” (DeLillo) / “shadow world” (Murakami) of the two nations’ megacities: New York and Tokyo.