Articles


Pop Master


Outside looking in
Author in Focus
Garbage Dissect Our Modern Age

Break on through
The elusive Murakami

The Postmodern in Murakamis Novels
Terrorism before WTC
Japanese writer probes souls dark kingdom
Big in Japan
The healer
Murakami shares his thougts with students
A Japanese Novelist in Search of Lost Ideals
Inner space
Haruki Murakami does Seattle
Overview of the hard-boiled fiction of hm
The other Speech
dancing as fast as he can
Tokyo Prose
A Voice from Postmodern Japan
The American Scene
Hi Mr Haruki Murakami
The Return from the Lost world
Presents from the dead


John Paul Catton
Big in Japan
     
     
  2000
  Metropolis Magazine

 

On the shelves of the international bookstores, you'll find Haruki Murakami to be one of the most widely translated Japanese novelists. His fiction, along with the work of Banana Yoshimoto, is the closest Japan has got to the genre of magic realism. His dreamlike narratives have been attacked by critics as "amoral, apolitical and escapist". However, in recent years, Murakami has undergone a drastic change - tackling controversial issues and uncovering things in Japanese society that the authorities would rather leave in the dark.

 
 

 

Born in Kobe in 1950, Murakami was introduced to Japanese literature by his high-school teacher father. Entering Waseda University, he chose to study Greek drama. For him, though, the real tragedy of his student days was the rise and inevitable destruction of the student radical movement. Disenchanted with mainstream society, Murakami opened a jazz café in Shibuya and ran it for nine years. Soaking up the bohemian atmosphere, he spent long nights at his kitchen table, writing down ideas and impressions. The result was his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, which won the Noma prize for fiction in 1980.

 

Popular success and reluctant critical acclaim followed a string of big-sellers: Norwegian Wood, Wild Sheep Chase and his latest, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. They were rapidly translated into English and other languages and scored a big hit in the US, where the novels acquired a strong cult following.

 
 

 

The appeal of Murakami's fiction lies in the characters and sub-plots that are interwoven through all of his novels. The protagonist is always a nameless, first-person narrator. His closest friends - his girlfriend and a cynical low-life known as The Rat - reappear from book to book and even come back as ghosts after their deaths. During the 1980s, his stories became more and more bizarre, culminating in the pure SF masterpiece that was Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

 

At the beginning of the 1990s, Murakami was living permanently in the US and teaching first at Princeton, then at Tufts University. The 1991 Gulf War made him aware of widespread concern over Japan's position in global politics. In 1995, the destruction of his home town, Kobe, by earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attack, shocked him into asking questions about his personal responsibility - and Japan's collective future. "I feel a sense of crisis," he remarked in an interview last May. "Not a single one of the basic problems has been solved."

 
   
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