Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Author Spotlight: Haruki Murakami

I have been finding a lot of references lately to Haruki Murakami, and thought I might give some thoughts on the author. Not really fact-checking here, just going mostly from memory.

Murakami was a Japanese novelist of some note who became widely famous in Japan after the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1985. He disliked the fame and moved to the United States in 1986. He primarily writes fiction, both novels and short stories, but has written a book on running and a dialogue/history of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system.

Murakami's works often include supernatural elements and deal with man's separation from the world around him. Also, unrequited or lost love are important. A theme common to several novels is what I call "the man with no face." He is not the same character each time, but in The Windup Bird Chronicle and After Dark particularly he makes an appearance. He is always more a force than a person, and exists the the shadow realm. Shadows are also an important part in many of the books. In Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World one of the main characters is separated from his shadow and loses part of himself.

Three early novels are known as The Trilogy of the Rat, of which only A Wild Sheep Chase is currently available in English. Murakami dislikes the first two books, and disliked the early translations. The novel Dance, Dance, Dance however is a followup. Both are enjoyable. I read them out of order, but they stand alone nicely.

My favorite of Murakami's works is Kafka on the Shore, the story of a young boy searching for his mother, whom he is told is dead. The story is highly supernatural. It is funny, touching, and scary. It is quite possibly the best book I have ever read.


kenchan13 said...

i just finished after dark and loved it.who do you suppose the faceless man was in the t.v. room? anyway.i'm all caught up again on all the books that have been translated.i've compared his writing to reading a dream.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I think he is part of the guy who attacked the prostitute. It is always hard to tell with Murakami. Maybe he is just the evil inside of man? His writing is very dreamlike.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, he has a new book out in Japan: ichi-kew-hachi-yon. No word on a translation timeframe.

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