As you might have noticed in my last post, I’m a bit of a Murakami fan and I’m not talking about Takashi Murakami. I read Dance, Dance, Dance when I was about 18 and haven’t stopped devouring everything by him I could find. So I was pretty excited to hear he has a new book out, 1Q84, and an interesting new article about him in the NYTIMES so I thought I would share. Take note the ‘Murakami Starter Kit’:
The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami by Sam Anderson from the nytimes.com
‘I prepared for my first-ever trip to Japan, this summer, almost entirely by immersing myself in the work of Haruki Murakami. This turned out to be a horrible idea. Under the influence of Murakami, I arrived in Tokyo expecting Barcelona or Paris or Berlin — a cosmopolitan world capital whose straight-talking citizens were fluent not only in English but also in all the nooks and crannies of Western culture: jazz, theater, literature, sitcoms, film noir, opera, rock ’n’ roll. But this, as really anyone else in the world could have told you, is not what Japan is like at all. Japan — real, actual, visitable Japan — turned out to be intensely, inflexibly, unapologetically Japanese.
This lesson hit me, appropriately, underground. On my first morning in Tokyo, on the way to Murakami’s office, I descended into the subway with total confidence, wearing a freshly ironed shirt — and then immediately became terribly lost and could find no English speakers to help me, and eventually (having missed trains and bought lavishly expensive wrong tickets and gestured furiously at terrified commuters) I ended up surfacing somewhere in the middle of the city, already extremely late for my interview, and then proceeded to wander aimlessly, desperately, in every wrong direction at once (there are few street signs, it turns out, in Tokyo) until finally Murakami’s assistant Yuki had to come and find me, sitting on a bench in front of a honeycombed-glass pyramid that looked, in my time of despair, like the sinister temple of some death-cult of total efficiency.
And so I was baptized by Tokyo’s underground. I had always assumed — naively, Americanly — that Murakami was a faithful representative of modern Japanese culture, at least in his more realist moods. It became clear to me down there, however, that he is different from the writer I thought he was, and Japan is a different place — and the relationship between the two is far more complicated than I ever could have guessed from the safe distance of translation.
One protagonist of Murakami’s new novel, “1Q84,” is tormented by his first memory to such an extent that he makes a point of asking everyone he meets about their own. When I met Murakami, finally, in his Tokyo office, I made a point of asking him what his own first memory was. When he was 3, he told me, he managed somehow to walk out the front door of his house all by himself. He tottered across the road, then fell into a creek. The water swept him downstream toward a dark and terrible tunnel. Just as he was about to enter it, however, his mother reached down and saved him. “I remember it very clearly,” he said. “The coldness of the water and the darkness of the tunnel — the shape of that darkness. It’s scary. I think that’s why I’m attracted to darkness.” As Murakami described this memory, I felt a strange internal joggling that I couldn’t quite place — it felt like déjà vu crossed with the spiritual equivalent of having to sneeze. It struck me that I had heard this memory before, or, eerily, that I was somehow remembering the memory myself, firsthand. Only much later did I realize that I was, indeed, remembering the memory: Murakami had transferred it to one of his very minor characters near the beginning of “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.”
That first visit to Murakami took place on a muggy midmorning, midweek, in the middle of an impossibly difficult summer for Japan — a summer spent trying to deal, here in reality, with the aftermath of a seemingly unreal disaster. The tsunami hit the northern coast four months before, killing 20,000 people, destroying entire towns, causing a partial nuclear meltdown and plunging the country into a handful of simultaneous crises: energy, public health, media, politics. (When the prime minister stepped down recently, it made him the fifth in five years to do so.) I had come to speak with Murakami, Japan’s leading novelist, about the translation into English (and also French, Thai, Spanish, Hebrew, Latvian, Turkish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Czech, Russian and Catalan) of his massive “1Q84” — a book that has already sold millions of copies across Asia and generated serious Nobel Prize chatter in most of the languages in which it is not yet even available. At age 62, three decades into his career, Murakami has established himself as the unofficial laureate of Japan — arguably its chief imaginative ambassador, in any medium, to the world: the primary source, for many millions of readers, of the texture and shape of his native country. Read entire article
The Murakami Starter Kit