Break on through
The elusive Murakami

Up from the Underground
The healer
The Outsider
The human cost

Roll over Basho
Murakami is seeking new style
Mizumaru Ansei

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Happy Ending of the Painter & the Writer
  Date unknown
Source unknown

A Conversation between Haruki Murakami
and Mizumaru Ansei

M stands for Murakami, A for Ansei

Co-operating For The First Time

M. Do you think our conversation topics very often have nothing to do with painting?

A. It seems so.

M. We once tried to discuss the topic in the magazine, but didn't actually delve into it.

A. Hmm ...

M. We discussed that in certain special column. A long time ago really. That was the Today magazine of Cultural Publication Department.

A. Yes! I remember that picture was called "The Sunset In The Mirror"!

M. You mean the one with a dog in it? That was -

A. The first time we worked together!

M. We had a good time chatting even before that!

A. In a certain cafe in Sendagaya -- the one introduced by you.

M. Later I invited you be to design the cover for me. But before that I had done something more ...

A. Writing columns for magazines?

M. You mean Part Time News? That's what I did afterwards ...

A. Yes! Oh, the first book ought to be A Slow Boat To China!

M. Now you remember it! At that time, I was only a new writer. How dare I think of those toppest illustrators? So I decided to ask Sasaki Maki to design covers for my long novels. In fact, I have been a big fan of his since the age of Galo. Only at that time very seldom did Sasaki draw covers for books.

A. When I first looked at your book cover, it striked me as if I had known it somewhere. But I couldn't tell the painter. Moreover, the covers by Sasaki Maki really differ different from the styles of others. They're so fresh!

M. Maki's both a cartoonist and painter himself. It's really courageous of me in asking him to design the cover for me!

A. You were so bold!

M. Really!

A. I agree! (laughs)

M. I was too keen on imploring Sasaki Maki to help me that I thought of nothing else. It turned out that I myself was very satisfied with the

cover, and it did receive a lot of good comments! Yet short fiction is different from novels. Therefore I also wish to invite some other painters to help me. So I thought of you Mizamaru Seian. At that time our works ...

A. Very cartoonish!

M. They striked me as very special, though. And the result was so satisfactory.

A. In that period I got a special desire. I didn't want to draw the real self with complete clarity. So I tried to extract the outlines of my pictures, and produced effects like those of paper-cut works.

M. Yes, like paste drawings. At that time not so many people would try that method.

A. It was a new thing for me too, and many did not discover that was my work.

M. I didn't recognize your work even.

The Pictures Of Novels versus That Of Short Fiction

A. It always seems to me inappropriate to employ a sharp mode of painting for the works of Murakami, especially his short fiction. Yet somehow the more you wish not to make yourself stand out, the clearer you depict yourself! I was finally at ease after I received the phone call from the editor telling me that Murakami liked the effect!

M. Many people complain that it's too challenging to design the cover for my works.

A. It would be much easier if one could neglect everything but simply draw. But it seems that I was pushed by something to produce uncommon works!

M. Actually, I used to have an idea in my mind everytime I ask for help. Only I fail to convey them completely with my own words. It was the same when I asked for your help.

A. That's the way I feel too. Everytime I draw, I fail to translate my feeling into words. I only want to extract the lines in my drawings I regard as most sensational. Of course I throw all my emotions into all other colors. I get satisfied only if the result produce a completely new impression!

M. You've got pretty strong intuition! You catch the demands and whatever ideas in others' mind, and hit on that right away. That's why I never have to worry but to leave all to you.

A. You could acquire the same skill easily provided that you get yourself trained by the advertising company! (smiles)

M. That's terrific!

A. Yet sometimes I too feel I could capture what others want easily. I remember once you asked me to design for Firefly, Burn The Barn And Other Stories. You wanted to choose words as the main theme. It happens that I had wanted to try that method too.

M. I belong to the talkative and troublesome type. I asked you to use words for expression.

A. Hmm ... many people are really troublesome, wanting this and that. But you do not belong to that type. You voice out your idea at the start. Then you stop saying anything more but leave all to me.

M. Maki's drawings differ from yours in meaning. His are confined by time and space. Yours convey the feeling of "alienation." The reason for my asking Maki to design covers for my novels and you for my short fiction is not simply job devision. To write a long novel takes nearly a year with a concentration of energy and spirit. This involvement remains after the writing is finished. That's why when I give the job to Maki, I would feel that he accepts it with care. On the other hand, I could write several short pieces without much thinking. When I ask you to design afterwards, usually you would accept it lightly, listen to my explanations and then finish it. It is from that time onwards that I start collecting the fragmentery drafts. Therefore I choose to ask you to design covers for my short fiction, and let you "generalize" the whole collection of short stories.

Words And Tea Bowl

M. I wanted to try words from the start of Firefly. But the feeling produced would like books issued by the post-war Avant Garde ... (laughs)

A. Ha! Ha! (laughs)

M. I also like the nostalgic mood, something resembling books published in Shouwa 30s!

A. Most of them were separate volumes, like the package of Suzuki Shintarou's books.

M. Oh yes! That's interesting!

A. When they told me they decided to use Firefly, Burn The Barn and Other Stories as the book title, I copied it immediately and reproduced it many times until the deadline was near. Finally I still found the first sketch most satisfactory. It seems that I lack profession! (smiles)

M. A good business?!

A. To tell the truth, I really wrote dozens but still found the first one the best.

M. I agreed too! (laughs) But that cover is excellent and enduring. At first the book belong to the library collection series. Later it was published as a separate volume. The cover looks even better with its area reduced.

A. It's hard to use words. Especially my words. I only tried.

M. No no no - you did a good job and I like it so much. ... What did we do later? Oh! Was it Hei Ho: Murakami Asahido? Very much Japanese cover!

A. That tea bowl. I have a special favour toward the shapes of tea bowls or small porcelain teapots. Particularly those traditional and sturdy teapots which exhibit the Japanese style of beauty.

M. At last you gave the picture to me.

A. Hei Ho: Murakami Asahido reminds you of the name of some very old Japanese fruit stores. It looks so harmonic with a tea bowl.

M. Many people comment that it's hard to guess what the book is about merely on the title and the bowl. (smiles)

A. What do you think they might guess? (smiles)

M. A Slow Boat To China, then Firefly, Burn The Barn and Other Stories ...

A. And right after the Hei Ho: Murakami Asahido ...

M. It should be Another Bakery Attack!

A. At first I had thought of using Indiana Jones.

M. Hmm ... then you used Another Attack of Hei Ho: Murakami Ashido as the theme. The so-called spillover method!

A. They asked me to use a gun, instead of a whip to surround the title, which would look simpler. But I felt ...

M. Something wrong about that! The original meaning would be lost without the whip!

A. Like those Cowboy pictures!

M. I really loved that painting so much, that I even thought of using the original to decorate my new house!

The Incident of The Scroll Painting ?
Sudden Attack by a Cat

M. With the mention of original paintings, I suddenly remembered that incident about the scroll painting.

A. Oh, about the scroll painting!

M. Once I moved to a new house. Of Japanese design. I asked you for a scroll painting, and prepared good white paper. You demanded a bucket of water and a pile of old newspapers to avoid dirtying the floor. After that you told me to leave everything to you. I waited outside for 30 minutes and nothing happened. I wondered whether something had gone wrong. So I got into the room and took a look. And you were reading the newspaper (laughs) and had not even started drawing a single line (laughs)!

A. In fact, I had never scroll painted for others. Since you invited me early, I had to accept it. I told myself I must do a great job, though at times I thought of being sloppish. Nobody's going to discover that! (laughs) Anyway, I pretended to be an expert from the beginning, like asking questions on the quality of the paper. I never expect you to bring the paper samples to me! (laughs)

M. I remember those samples too!

A. Thus I felt the real pressure! I tried painting on those papers, and found the quality of be excellent!

M. Of course! I bought them with much care!

A. On that day, I came to your new house. A very neat Japanese house, with those expensive sliding paper panels. The moment I started painting, there were thunders and rains, which remind me of those great scenes in movies!

I felt uneasy about that, and didn't wish others to watch when I was painting. You are very considerate, and left all to me. I thought I would not seem serious enough if I finish painting so quickly. After brooding for a while, my eyes suddenly fell on the contents of the newspapers about the third victory of Sino-Japanese Dragons. I got so interested and started reading it ...(laughs) Where did you get those old papers?

M. It's great, wasn't it?!

A. When I was reading, you came in! It's so embarassing!

M. I thought you could not allow others to watch you painting, like the story of Night Crane. I never guess you were reading! (laughs) I remembered later you took only five minutes to finish the scroll painting! A four-sided scroll painting, to be exact. To tell the truth, were you that well-planned or did you jerry-build!?

A. That's what I call the power of concentration ... (laughs) I read the paper beforehand, which calmed me down! (laughs)

M. Really? (laughs)

A. And though it didn't take me much time painting ...

M. Just five minutes, to be exact!

A. It exhaused the same amount of energy as in running thousands of meters!

M. But I didn't notice a single drop of sweat!

A. I hid that deliberately!

M. I would rather you show off all your power! It'd have touched me!

A. Anyway, it's a painting which gives such pleasure!

M. You remember you complained being attacked by a cat? It's just because you dislike cats and dogs!

A. Dare you mention that! You sent your cat with a bell to watch over me!

M. I didn't mean that! It was just the time for letting cats out!

A. "Letting cats"? I remember how I screamed for help!

M. I thought it was a bear which frightened you! But it's only a cat!

A. I really love those scroll paintings, and had wanted to try that long ago. When I painted the feeling was so refreshing!

M. Those apple and orange on the scroll were originally intended to be sun and moon. But they are what I perceive them to be!

A. The picture you mention was produced at my office. I produced many, in fact, and chose that as the best!

M. But that's really terrific! Last time we two spent our holidays at the Hot Springs. I found in my room a painting resembling yours. But that was produced by an 80-year-old painter having accumulated decades of experience! But the design is really not much different from yours with only 40 years of experience!

A. Using black paint for that round sun is so appropriate!

M. In the past history, only those painters belonging to noble families could produce real circles.

A. The so-called "genuine/ legitimate circles."

M. But Mizumura's circles have already reached that stage.

A. Do you mean I only know how to paint circles?!

M. Mizumura's circles will become so famous sooner or later.

Happy End Of Elephant Factory

M. For Happy End Of Elephant Factory, the illustrations and essays were done separately.

A. At first I was asked whether I'd like to publish an album, a thing which I'm tired of hearing. But it would be different if I could publish it together with somebody's works. So I phoned Murakami to see if you're interested in working with me.

M. A long time ago people had asked me whether I'd like to publish a collection of my ramblings too. Only I somehow got humiliated. Am I a novelist? The literary ramblings of many writers always seem invaluable. Yet obviously mine are not so. Thus I wished to get it published with somebody's else. (smiles)

A. I felt the same as you did. I'm only an illustrator. It's so embarrassing to be called a painter who has his own album. We're such a nice match!

M. I wrote several short stories in the past. Though I'd never thought of getting them published, I include them here this time. For instance, Late-Circle My Own Advertisement, A Day In The Life. Also My Name is Arch.

A. I wanted to draw Late Circle a long time ago, and so drew it this time. Never did I realize that you got this title, too!

M. That's so!

A. It's unplanned, careless coalition!

M. Really!?

A. At that time you thought of two possible titles. One was Happy Ending Of Elephant Factory. The other was White Christmas Of Elephant Factory. I thought White Christmas of Elephant Factory was too restricted to December. So Happy Ending was better!

M. That happened just after "White Christmas On The Battlefield"!

A. If we substitute "Elephant Factory" by "Battlefield," it'd be exactly "White Christmas On The Battlefield"! (smiles) But for this book, I had never read any of your works before I started producing my illustrations!

M. Yet surprisingly, they match!?

A. It's really an amazing book!

M. Ought to describe it as a very rare book!