Memory can give warmth to time.
—Haruki Murakami, from “Killing Commendatore,”(trans. Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen)
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
Murakami’s diction and syntax (in both the original Japanese and English translation) are known to be simple, but this sentence holds poetic weight. Always easy with the metaphysical, he treats the abstract terms in this sentence (“memory” and “time”) with deceptive casualness. “Give warmth” animates, almost personifies; “can” is ambiguous—meaning either a conditional or “is able to.” Context: an artist recalls the feeling of his much-beloved younger sister’s hand held in his during a physical/metaphysical childhood adventure. She is deceased but this memory of her is triggered as he sits painting another girl’s portrait in the studio of an artist who is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s. The effect is ethereal, much like the improv jazz riffs Murakami frequently references in his fiction. And it’s trademark Murakami that what at first seems an obvious, almost throwaway line becomes a conundrum the more one thinks on it.
—Patricia Chao is the author of Monkey King and Mambo Peligroso