Note first the inversion: something has happened which has made the real world change places with the unreal. The unreal, contrafactual world of what never happened has become more real to us than the real world we’re inhabiting.
The analogy seems to be that of traumatization. In a traumatized state, the ego is trapped in the past, which is more real than the present, which has turned into a meaningless and indifferent chaos. The structure of the inversion is the same.
Note Murakami's huge ambitions, which almost seem to border on hubris or at least on the heroic. Words must be coined, he asserts, that help connect past and future. The task he sets himself as a teller of stories is, in other words, the healing of the world – its recovery. The teller of stories takes on the role of a healing angel or boddhisattva surveying the disaster.
Many have written a lot about the shift from detachment to commitment in Murakami’s writings in the 90s. In the 80’s, he could still write – as he does in his masterpiece Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World – how life is like a beach where junk is washed ashore by the waves and then washed back into the sea.
When I look back over my life so far, I see all that junk on the beach. It’s how my life has always been. Gathering up the junk, sorting through it, and then casting it off somewhere else. All for no purpose, leaving it to wash away again.[…] This is all my life. I merely go from one beach to another. Sure I remember the things that happen in between, but that’s all. I never tie them together.Here too an inversion has occurred. And it occurs on many planes. Compared to the earlier text, detachment has turned partially into commitment, acceptance of discontinuity into a stoic groping for words that tie together, and self-chosen isolation has turned into the shouldering of what almost appears as a communal task. But underlying it all is a continuity – a chilly sadness at what one of his contemporary soul mates, Thomas Pynchon, called ”the spilled, the broken world”.
I won’t venture further here into the many questions that open up here. Let me just say that I think there is much that speaks for a view of the world as traumatized, just as Murakami suggests. I once wrote that being an angel was revolutionary. That may sound silly. But in a traumatized world, it’s true.