More…of The Things You Learn in Books

Books entertain me and sometimes inspire and hopefully get me thinking about subjects that are important to me. I have a few of those: the nature of time and memory; history and its rewriting by the powerful; the concept of self and our perceptions of the relationships with the world beyond our skin. But I also love to stumble across corners of learning that are just fascinating in and of themselves, though they may not be too important beyond the fact of their uniqueness, their ability to shine a light on the corners of our souls.

In Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, just before two of the major (second-tier) characters meet, and one is about to assassinate the other, one of them asks the other what he knows about Carl Jung (I’m doing this without spoilers, so it’s awkward). The character who has been asked knows the basics, but beyond that not much. He is then told a story about Jung: that he lived in Zurich with his family on a lakeside residential area. Jung however, needed a quieter place, a place where he could really think. He built a small house on a different parcel of land on the lake called Bollingen. Jung built the house himself out of stones. In order to do this, Jung had to become a stone mason – get a license and join the guild. The house Jung built with his own hand is called the “Tower”.

The house took twelve years to build. It’s still there, though not open to the public. Murakami’s character goes on to explain further:

…at the entrance to the original tower there is a stone into which Jung carved some words with his own hand. ‘Cold or Not, God is Present.’

The man asks his soon to be victim if he knows what that might mean. The other replies that he does not. The assassin admits that he is not sure either, but he knows that it had deep meaning to Jung, having found it necessary to chisel these words into the stone himself.

I don’t know why, but I’ve been drawn to these words for a long time. I find them hard to understand, but the difficulty in understanding makes it all the more profound. I don’t know much about God. I was raised in a Catholic orphanage and had some awful experiences there so I don’t have a good impression of God. And it was always cold there, even in the summer. It was either really cold or outrageously cold. One or the other. If there is a God, I can’t say he treated me very well. Despite all this, those words of Jung’s quietly sank deep into the folds of my soul. Sometimes I close my eyes and repeat them over and over, and they make me strangely calm. ‘Cold or Not, God is Present.’

Then he proceeds to suffocate his victim to death.

It’s possible that the character has this quote wrong. He may have misheard it. Something similar is on Carl Jung’s gravestone:


This can be translated as {Invoked or not invoked, the god is present.}. Or “called or not called” – instead of cold. Hmmm.



Filed under Books

9 responses to “More…of The Things You Learn in Books

  1. Loved today’s post. I do love when books, whether intentionally or not, get me thinking and making connections. Its actually one of my favorite side-effects of reading.

  2. I just got to this point in the book. I’m glad you explained the difference btwn called and cold

  3. Geoff

    That is very interesting. I just finished 1Q84 and was musing over cold or not. Called or not God is there. I believe that myself.

  4. Did Murakami know that using the word “cold” in this context was in error? It seems that the word “cold” fits better with Tamaru and Ushikawa’s situation.

  5. Daniela

    Funny. I listened to IQ84 as an audio-book, and at first I had understood “called”. Then it was clear that the reader had actually said “cold”. Might this be a mistake of the translator? Anyone knows Japanese and can go back to the original? I wonder…”Called” makes definitely more sense.

  6. Rob

    I love the internet… I too was intrigued by Marakami’s quote of Jung. It appears from Wikipedia that the statement goes back further than Jung.

    Excerpt from Wikipedia below:


    Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.
    Called or uncalled, God will be present.
    This is actually a statement that Jung discovered among the Latin writings of Desiderius Erasmus, who declared the statement had been an ancient Spartan proverb. Jung popularized it, having it inscribed over the doorway of his house, and upon his tomb.
    Variant translations:
    Summoned or not summoned, God is present.
    Invoked or not invoked, God is present
    Called or not called, the god will be there.
    Bidden or unbidden, God is present.
    Bidden or not bidden, God is present.
    Bidden or not, God is present.
    Bidden or not bidden, God is there.
    Called or uncalled, God is there.

  7. Hiro Yoshioka

    The Japanese sentence is “Cold or not cold, the God is present.” So translation is OK.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s