Archives for posts with tag: Haruki Murakami

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In 2006, renowned Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami — author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — accomplished a long-standing goal by translating The Great Gatsby into Japanese. Murakami has discussed his reverence for the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel many times over the years — and has written a compelling afterword to his translation. Read Murakami’s moving love letter to Fitzgerald’s masterwork at scribd.com.

Here are some excerpts from Murakami’s heartfelt homage to The Great Gatsby

When someone asks, ‘Which three books have meant the most to you?’ I can answer without having to think: The Great Gatsby, Dostoevesky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. All three have been indispensable to me (both as a reader and as a writer); yet if I were forced to select only one, I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here nor there).

Whatever the case, you can sense the level of my infatuation with The Great Gatsby. It taught me so much and encouraged me so greatly in my own life. Through slender in size for a full-length work, it served as a standard and a fixed point, an axis around which I was able to organize the many coordinates that make up the world of the novel. I read Gatsby over and over, poking into every nook and cranny, until I had virtually memorized entire sections.

Remarks such as these are bound to perplex more than a few readers. ‘Look, Murakami,’ they’ll say, ‘I read the novel, and I don’t get it. Just why do you think it’s so great?’ My first impulse is to challenge them right back. ‘Hey, if The Great Gatsby isn’t great,’ I am tempted to say, inching closer, ‘then what the heck is?’…Gatsby is such a finely wrought novel – its scenes so fully realized, its evocations of sentiment so delicate, its language so layered – that, in the end, one has to study it line by line in English to appreciate its true value.”

 

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“For me, writing a novel is like having a dream. Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I’m still awake. I can continue yesterday’s dream today, something you can’t normally do in everyday life.” HARUKI MURAKAMI, author of THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE

FROM THE AMAZON.COM LISTING FOR THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE: Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami’s earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

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Editor’s Note: At 607 pages,  a long read, but never boring — and one of my all-time favorite novels.

Illustration: Portrait of Haruki Murakami by Bradley Wind

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January 12 marks the 64th birthday of Haruki Murakami, a novelist whose work I enjoy because it’s original, funny, surreal, and surprising.

Who else could write a detective story featuring an elderly (and rather simpleminded) private investigator that people pay a per diem to locate their lost cats? How does the detective get his clues? By interviewing cats! (That’s his special skill.)

Read an excerpt from the brilliant, charming, funny “Heigh Ho” at The Paris Review here.

To give you a feel for the story, here’s a passage from “Heigh Ho” by Haruki Murakami:

Being able to converse with cats was Nakata’s little secret. Only he and the cats knew about it. People would think he was crazy if he mentioned it, so he never did. Everybody knew he wasn’t very bright, but being dumb and being crazy were different matters altogether.

It wasn’t so unusual, after all, to see old folks talking to animals as if they were people. But if anyone did happen to comment on his abilities with cats and say something like, “Mr. Nakata, how are you able to know cats’ habits so well?” he’d just smile and let it pass. 

“Heigh Ho” by Haruki Murakami is also found in his novel Kafka on the Shore, available at Amazon.com.

Wishing you many more happy birthdays, Mr. Murakami! 

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In this excerpt from The Paris Review interview with Haruki Murakami — bestselling author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — the writer discusses the influence of hardboiled detective fiction on his work.

INTERVIEWER: … hard-boiled American detective fiction has clearly been a valuable resource. When were you exposed to the genre and who turned you on to it?

MURAKAMI: As a high-school student, I fell in love with crime novels. I was living in Kobe, which is a port city where many foreigners and sailors used to come and sell their paperbacks to the secondhand bookshops. I was poor, but I could buy paperbacks cheaply. I learned to read English from those books and that was so exciting.

INTERVIEWER: What was the first book you read in English?

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MURAKAMI: The Name Is Archer, by Ross Macdonald. I learned a lot of things from those books. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. At the same time I also loved to read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Those books are also page-turners; they’re very long, but I couldn’t stop reading. So for me it’s the same thing, Dostoevsky and Raymond Chandler. Even now, my ideal for writing fiction is to put Dostoevsky and Chandler together in one book. That’s my goal.

INTERVIEWER: At what age did you first read Kafka?

MURAKAMI: When I was fifteen. I read The Castle; that was a great book. And The Trial.

INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting. Both those novels were left unfinished, which of course means that they never resolve; your novels too—particularly your more recent books, like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—often seem to resist a resolution of the kind that the reader is perhaps expecting. Could that in any way be due to Kafka’s influence?

MURAKAMI: Not solely. You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all. I don’t care who the killer is in The Brothers Karamazov.

INTERVIEWER: And yet the desire to find out who killed the chauffeur is part of what makes The Big Sleep a page-turner.

MURAKAMI: I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.

Read the rest of The Paris Review interview here.

Photo: Haruki Murakami and cat friend.

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QUOTES FROM SELECTED WRITERS ABOUT THE SHORT STORY…

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” EDGAR ALLAN POE

“My short stories are like soft shadows I have set out in the world, faint footprints I have left. I remember exactly where I set down each and every one of them, and how I felt when I did. Short stories are like guideposts to my heart…”  HARUKI MURAKAMI

“With a novel, which takes perhaps years to write, the author is not the same man he was at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. It is not only that his characters have developed–he has developed with them, and this nearly always gives a sense of roughness to the work: a novel can seldom have the sense of perfection which you find in Chekhov’s story, ‘The Lady with the Dog.’” GRAHAM GREENE

“When well told, a story captured the subtle movement of change. If a novel was a map of a country, a story was the bright silver pin that marked the crossroads.” ANN PATCHETT

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THOUGHTS ABOUT WRITING

by Haruki Murakami

“As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue with yesterday’s dream. Because it is a dream, there are so many contradictions and I have to adjust them to make the story work. But, in principle, the original dream does not change.”

“I didn’t want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that’s a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I’m proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it.”

“…if I want to express myself, I have to make up a story. Some people call it imagination. To me, it’s not imagination. It’s just a way of watching.”

“…at the time I was fond of Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and it was from them that I learned about this kind of simple, swift-paced style…”

“When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come.”

“When I am writing, I do not distinguish between the natural and supernatural. Everything seems real.”

“Whenever I write a novel, music just sort of naturally slips in (much like cats do, I suppose).”

PHOTO: Novelist Haruki Murakami with a cat friend. Cats figure in many of Murakami’s novels — especially THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE (one of my all-time favorite novels), available on Amazon.com.

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” … I come here every day, say hello to the butterflies, and talk about things with them. When the time comes, though, they just quietly go off and disappear. I’m sure it means they’ve died, but I can never find their bodies. They don’t leave any trace behind. It’s like they’ve been absorbed by the air. They’re dainty little creatures that hardly exist at all: they come out of nowhere, search quietly for a few, limited things, and disappear into nothingness again, perhaps to some other world.”  HARUKI MURAKAMI, IQ84

Photo: Melanie Huff, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.” HARUKI MURAKAMI, IQ84

Photo: Bazich, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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