Ah, yes. Murakami Haruki. The giant of Japanese literature after Nobel laureates Kenzaburo Oe and Yasunari Kawabata. He has inspired an entire generation of novelists, including the illustrious David Mitchell. I was introduced to his books through a friend in 1998 with Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I never looked back.
Since then I’ve read almost everything of his translated into English. And while Murakami fans like myself will usually agree that The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is his opus, for me it was A Wild Sheep Chase that showed me how special he was as a writer.
The Rat. Beautiful ears. A star-shaped emblem on a sheep in nowhere Hokkaido.
It was innovative literature that took creativity to a new level.
So innovative, in fact, that when Murakami won the Yomiuri Prize (Japan’s Pulitzer/Booker/Giller Prize) for The Wind-up Bird Chroncicle, Kenzaburo Oe could barely conceal his vitriol. At the awards ceremony, Oe and Murakami actually met (Murakami in standard running shoes for a black tie affair), and as Murakami’s long-time translator Jay Rubin recounted in his excellent biography, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words , it was an awkward moment to say the least. It was a changing of the guard in Japanese literature.
Well, now the usually media-shy Murakami has decided to write a column in which he will answer people’s questions in a range of languages, including English. I’m not sure how many fans he will be able to respond to as a superstar writer, but if you haven’t read any of his books, do so immediately. Here’s my top 5:
1. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
2. A Wild Sheep Chase
3. South of the Border, West of the Sun
4. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World
5. Hear the Wind Sing (his first literary effort and pretty much only available on eBay through an auction)
Click here to learn more about links to Murakami’s new advice column.