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Hard-Boiled Wonderland
November 28, 2004 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Haruki Murakami is one of Japan's most widely translated authors, yet he still answers his readers emails. He has compared the process of writing to simultaneously designing and playing a video game. He is sometimes dismissed as a pop-writer, but the fifty-something's life and works have already garnered him a critical autobiography. He has investigated and written about the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attacks for his book, Underground. His novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, transcends elements of both cyberpunk and detective fiction through a combination of surreal allegory and an almost stoic immediacy. It all begins with the impossibly slow ascent of an elevator.
posted by rdub (68 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
In this case, the missing apostrophe after readers was the mistake I never saw on preview.
posted by rdub at 4:51 PM on November 28, 2004


Wow. I read the preview pages for Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and now I really want to get my hands on a copy. Thanks much!
posted by jenovus at 5:02 PM on November 28, 2004


Lord, if you like books and haven't heard of Murakami, I beg you... Drop what you're doing and go to the library ex post haste.

And pop-writer my ass. He's as good as anybody alive today.
posted by drpynchon at 5:10 PM on November 28, 2004


Jenovus: Coolness. That book consumed me for a little while - not so much in the "can't put it down" way, but more in the "can't get it out of my subconscious" way.
posted by rdub at 5:12 PM on November 28, 2004


Murikami's incredible. I like most of what he's written, but The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is his masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. Check out this Salon interview for more about him.

I understand he has many more books in Japanese that haven't yet been translated. If that's true, I hope that someone gets to translate them soon!
posted by jasper411 at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2004


On a non Murakami note (or for those who are already familiar with him), I have a couple of other suggestions for those who like to read fairly modern foreign literature:

Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars (note it comes in both a male and female edition) is something like hypertext in print. Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is also surreal, but not as mind-bending as the Pavic book.
posted by rdub at 5:20 PM on November 28, 2004


He's as good as anybody alive today.

Absolutely, drpynchon. Absolutely. Murakami is simply amazing.
posted by malaprohibita at 5:29 PM on November 28, 2004


The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is his masterpiece

Seconded.
posted by yerfatma at 5:33 PM on November 28, 2004


his new "kafka on the shore" gets a US release in January. I can't wait!
posted by hulette at 5:36 PM on November 28, 2004


Dance, Dance, Dance was one of my other favorites; although I'd have to agree that Wind Up Bird Chronicle was his best work.

I hope Kafka on the Shore has a similar release date in Au as it does in US. Eagerly awaiting.
posted by ssinct at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2004


I also love him with an excess of passion. I thank my fellow monkeys at 9622 (Kafkaesque, in particular, as I recall) for turning me on to him.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2004


If you're a Murakami fan (I am, rabidly so, ever since my father handed me a copy of Hard-boiled Wonderland a few years ago) and you missed the stage adaptation of some of his short stories that was at Lincoln Center a few months ago, man, did you miss out. I was dubious, but they actually managed to pull off the air of otherworldliness that Murakami creates in his books nearly perfectly.

On another Murakami-related note, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think Birnbaum was a better translater of his work than Rubin. I know there exists a Birnbaum translation of Norwegian Wood floating around, and if anyone could, as the kids say, hook me up, I'd be interested.

Finally, just as a word to the wise, there are actually TWO prominent Japanese authors named Haruki Murakami. The guy we're talking about here is the LESS (!) strange one.
posted by teferi at 5:49 PM on November 28, 2004


Interesting links. I'm surprised people consider The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle a masterpiece. I read it and was pretty let down. Maybe my expectations were too high. I'm hoping it was the translation, but some of the dialogues sounded like they were written by a high-school student. I thought it got better towards the end, though, particularly the parts with the soldier Mamiya. Are there other books by Murakami that his fans would recommend?
posted by driveler at 5:51 PM on November 28, 2004


Ditto on the Murakami fandom. I discovered him when I was living in Japan, and I've been hooked ever since. If you can, try to get Alfred Birnbaum's translation of Norwegian Wood; I thought it was better than Jay Rubin's. I also loved the more lighthearted modern fantasy of A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. The man can do no wrong in my eyes.

For that matter, I'm a fan of both Murakamis, Haruki and Ryu (no relation). The latter's Coin Locker Babies has haunted me for years.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:55 PM on November 28, 2004


Evidently I agree with teferi, but I should reiterate that there are two popular modern Japanese authors named Murakami, but only one is Haruki.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2004


Ack, thanks for the correction, Faint of Butt. Brainfart.
posted by teferi at 6:01 PM on November 28, 2004


I've enjoyed several of Murakami's books, and I am now struggling to read him in Japanese, at the rate of about one paragraph per hour.
Another Murakami worth reading is Ryu, esp. 'Almost Transparent Blue' and 'Coin Locker Babies'
posted by bashos_frog at 6:02 PM on November 28, 2004


I don't feel comfortable saying whether or not Murakami is one of the best writers alive today, since I don't read Japanese, and have only read translations. But the translations I've read were very good, and honestly worth picking up if you are one of the diminishing number of people who haven't been pointed to him yet.
posted by Hildago at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2004


An acquaintance of mine from school claims that neither Birnbaum nor Rubin was a very good translator of Murakami (though he was basing this on side-by-side comparisons of the French and English translations, not English and Japanese).

I enjoyed Norwegian Wood a lot, though (it was the first thing by him I read), so I'll second teferi's request if anyone knows where the other translation lives.

I know some people who thought Wind-Up Bird was overly long, and I have to say I was disappointed by South of the Border, West of the Sun.
posted by kenko at 6:29 PM on November 28, 2004


Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World is good, but as others have pointed out The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is simply superb. I was hooked immediately and did little else for two days (I'm a slow reader).

This may be trite, but the book reminded me of a David Lynch film...very weird and unsettling. Both artists take mundane locations and situations and turn them into post-modern nightmares. Highly reccomended.
posted by zardoz at 6:29 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think Birnbaum was a better translater of his work than Rubin.

In my opinion, Birnbaum makes Murakami seem too hard-edged and noirish, while rubin offers a more unique, airy ambiguity. I guess I can't really judge who did a better job because I can't read the originals.
posted by luckyclone at 6:34 PM on November 28, 2004


I read quite a few of the English translations Haruki Murakami's books in college and felt like they were trying too hard. I blamed it on the translation, but when I reread The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in the original Japanese I remained unmoved.

Maybe this Murakami isn't my cup of tea. I do like Ryu Murakami, though.
posted by Alison at 6:34 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm not entirely certain, but this might be the Birnbaum translation of Norwegian Wood. I know the edition I read was divided into the famous red and green volumes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:40 PM on November 28, 2004


Who the hell are you, rdub? My doppelganger?

My real name is Richard Dub. Most of my e-mail addresses are rdub@(somethingorother). I was considering making rdub my mefi nick before I went with something more anonymous. And I like Haruki Murakami quite a bit.

On topic: I really like Japanese magical realism - it seems like a lot of relatively recent Japenese fiction that I've read is in this genre. (e.g. Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, Kobo Abe.) It's a bit different than traditional magical realism from other countries... less focused on politics and airy metaphysics and more on the individual. I've always wondered: is this something that I've imposed on the culture's literature through my scattershot readings, or is magical realism acknowledged to be a large part of today's Japanese lit? Maybe it's just a product of what Western publishing companies choose to translate. Can anyone point me toward any essays that compare Japanese magical realism to Latin American or Italian magical realism?

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is not Murakami's masterpiece, unless you're using 'masterpiece' as a synonym for 'longest book'. It's good, but much too long and bloated.
posted by painquale at 6:44 PM on November 28, 2004


painquale: Oh, I liked what you saw as long and bloated. It was fun. Sometimes I thought the war segments went on way too long (with the exception of the one about killing all the zoo animals). But have you ever sat around talking with, say, someone who saw the worst in Vietnam? I did recently with someone, and he missed dinner.
posted by raysmj at 6:51 PM on November 28, 2004


Painquale, what Mishima would you say is magical realist? I wouldn't so classify what I've read of his.
posted by kenko at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2004


I second rdub- "The Dictionary of The Khazars" is one of the best books that I have read. Ever. Now I'm hitting up the library to see if they have Murakami.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2004


I'd had my birthday about a month or so before finishing my phd and was independently given two of murakami's novels as presents. When my life returned to me - post-phd - I drank those two novels in a night or a two a piece and went onto bloat myself on everything else he's written.

Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance are remarkable and beautifully woven together. Have to agree that South of the Border, West of the Sun wasn't great, although the climax and resolution were well toned and I certainly could relate to it at the time (and still can for that matter).

Sure, Wind-up Bird Chronicle is HM's longest book, but had me utterly lost in it for the duration, so I don't think its too long. Perhaps my one criticism of HM is that he writes one protagonist too frequently: sort a whiskey drinking everyman who's bewildered by life and thrown around by it. Its a good character and I can certainly empathize.

Anyone who hasn't read him certainly should, however the list of true and brilliant writers is by no means short...
posted by blindsam at 7:00 PM on November 28, 2004


I loved reading Haruki's books, but would also recommend the two Ryu novels mentioned above. A word of warning though, they aren't for the faint of heart.
posted by btwillig at 7:13 PM on November 28, 2004


Who the hell are you, rdub? My doppelganger? My real name is Richard Dub.

Painquale:
No, I'm not your doppelganger or your shadow. My real name is Ryan. I picked up the alias rdub looking for a four letter replacement for the frequently taken "Ryan." Anyhow, it stuck, so I used it for my metafilter nick.
posted by rdub at 7:14 PM on November 28, 2004


teferi - I went to see The Elephant Vanishes as well, and loved it.
posted by bshort at 7:23 PM on November 28, 2004


As someone who has never heard of Murakami before, I'd like to thank rdub in advance for providing some enjoyable winter break reading.
posted by mek at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2004


I really enjoy Murakami, but I can't imagine reading more than one of his books per year. He (or his translators) has a certain style that really grates on me after a while. I think it may have something to do with his obsessions. He has admitted (I hear) that he has an ear fetish, but I think he has an oral fixation as well. His characters are always sucking on lemon drops or smoking or drinking or eating sandwiches (oh my god the sandwiches!).
posted by TheIrreverend at 7:57 PM on November 28, 2004


I recently read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and in trying to find out more about this writer saw he was described as a follower of the Murakami school, which seemed to explain why his writing seems to exist in the same world as The Elephant Vanishes.
posted by DonK7921 at 8:00 PM on November 28, 2004


nice post, rdub!
posted by shoepal at 8:03 PM on November 28, 2004


I second everything nice said about Murakami in this thread. So far I've only read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and After the Quake, but I absolutely adore all three.
posted by The God Complex at 8:05 PM on November 28, 2004


I've read three of his books and think that they are all brilliant. Is he a master writer? Who cares? I love him to bits and that's all that matters. And for the record, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle was fantastic. You poo-pooers out there are wrong.
posted by ashbury at 8:08 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm not a Murakami fan but excellent post rdub!
posted by dobbs at 8:11 PM on November 28, 2004


Count me among those who believe that Haruki Murakami is a freaking genius.
posted by adampsyche at 8:20 PM on November 28, 2004


Can someone explain what this is (in one of the links) about the parrot and incest in Metal Gear Solid 2?
posted by inksyndicate at 8:20 PM on November 28, 2004


inksyndicate - If you are referring to the fourth link, I was really only going for one paragraph from that page, but didn't have a good way to link to just that:

"In the summer 2004 issue of The Paris Review literary magazine, the renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami, in an interview, says, "I think video games are closer to fiction than anything else these days." The interviewer responds, "Video games?" with transparent surprise and bewilderment. Murakami then explains that he doesn’t play video games, but feels the similarity. "Sometimes while I'm writing I feel I'm the designer of a video game, and at the same time a player. I made up the program, and now I'm in the middle of it; the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. It's a kind of detachment. A feeling of a split." Murakami is a traditional pen and paper writer. He works at his kitchen table and is not, as his fans know, in any way part of the so-called digital revolution. His awareness of the role of narrative in video games is instinctual, not studied. Murakami's comment may be interpreted as a sign that video games are becoming more influential than we possibly know."

posted by rdub at 8:28 PM on November 28, 2004


Hardboiled Wonderland is the bomb. Read it.
posted by scarabic at 9:22 PM on November 28, 2004


And to go against the grain a bit, while I do like his "big" books, my personal favorites are Dance, Dance, Dance and Norwegian Wood. Cuz I'm all romantic/heartbroken and shit. Recommended for those just getting out of relationships or feeling bored with life.
posted by drpynchon at 9:22 PM on November 28, 2004


He bores me to tears, but my girl thinks he's the best. The Village Voice agrees: Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction.
posted by muckster at 9:23 PM on November 28, 2004


Speaking of his shorter works, my favorite is The Second Bakery Attack.
posted by hue at 9:27 PM on November 28, 2004


I'll add my acclaim for The Elephant Vanishes at Lincoln Center. In terms of bringing to life that sort of inhuman mechanized palpable alone-ness in Murakami's Tokyo, the set designers did an amazing job of making a committed urbanite like myself seriously consider moving to the woods and learning how to fish. I saw it with a girl who has read his books in the original Japanese and she noted that there were really about three lines of dialogue for every one supratitled in English. The price you pay for monolinguilism, i suppose.

Personally, I always thought I was alone in preferring Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to Hard-Boiled Wonderland but I'm glad to see I'm not. In other news, I've had Cloud Atlas on my shelf for months now and after reading this, I will have to redouble my efforts to get around to reading it.
posted by pokeydonut at 9:34 PM on November 28, 2004


Hard-Boiled Wonderland... was the first Murakami I picked up, as a freshman in high school, and I ended up reading everything he had out in that year. My well-worn copy of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (imho, his best, but the first few times I read it was during long car trips through Michigan, so I could really get lost in it) is glaring at me right now. Thanks for reminding me to re-read it again, and also for the information about the upcoming book. Great FPP!
posted by 235w103 at 10:12 PM on November 28, 2004


Thanks for this great post. I just finished Norwegian Wood two days ago and loved it. Pretty intense reading for killing time on the flight home for Thanksgiving. I don't think I blinked or was aware of a single thing that happened the whole flight.
posted by Voivod at 10:28 PM on November 28, 2004


I went to a talk he gave in London. We sat spellbound and also a little bemused as he gave us a reading. In Japanese.
posted by nthdegx at 11:03 PM on November 28, 2004


Another Murakami fan here: I got hooked by Norwegian Wood and have read most of his novels since then. Besides Norwegian Wood, my personal favourites are Wild Sheep Chase and the story collection After the Quake. I was looking forward to Kafka on the Shore so much that I got hold of an advance proof copy of it via abebooks & am reading it now...
posted by misteraitch at 12:30 AM on November 29, 2004


Supposedly Murakami rarely allows his work to be filmed, but the short story Tony Takitani was turned into a film. I was lucky enough to see it at the Vancouver Film Festival, and it actually did capture something of the feel of Murakami. I would recommend it to Murakami fans, of which it would appear there are a few.
posted by icathing at 12:58 AM on November 29, 2004


Hey hue, thanks for that link! What a great story.

On topic: I've read "Hard Boiled" and the short stories he's published in the New Yorker. I like the short stories better. I didn't much care for the end "Hard Boiled"; it seemed like it was incomplete. However, I still would like to read his other books. His voice is unique.
posted by snwod at 2:23 AM on November 29, 2004


Fans of "A Wild Sheep Chase" and "Dance Dance Dance" should try to find Murakami's earliest novels, "Hear the Wind Sing" and "Pinball 1979". Both give some back stories on the nameless narrator and the Rat. Alfred Birnbaum translated both novels for Kodansha's "Read in English" series. Not sure if they're still in print, but I bought both at Japanese bookstore.
posted by NemesisVex at 6:15 AM on November 29, 2004


Just dropping in to say that Murakami is certainly amazing. Wind Up Bird (the first edition hard cover featuring a nice Chip Kidd/Chris Ware book case) is my favorite, but Hard Boiled Wonderland... is as good, and very different. His intro to Underground the interview collection was very effective.

If it was never mentioned, you can find a Murakami story titled Dabchick in McSweeney's no. 4. It might also be in his newest short story collection, anyway...

Thanks for the new links. I'm very excited for Kafka on the Shore.
posted by JBennett at 7:07 AM on November 29, 2004


Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars (note it comes in both a male and female edition) is something like hypertext in print.

I second rdub- "The Dictionary of The Khazars" is one of the best books that I have read.


Normally I hate anything that risks reducing art to politics, and I think novels should stand on their own regardless of their implications for the outside world, but I feel I have to add some information here that is generally neglected in the English-speaking world (I can't find anything online about it). When I read the book many years ago, it was perfectly clear to me that it was a political allegory (along with much else, obviously): the Khazars stood in for the Serbs, who have always seen themselves as maligned and misunderstood, doing the thankless job of saving civilization from the barbarian hordes while being reviled by the uncomprehending peoples they save (notably the Croats, Bosnians, and Slovenes). This paranoid worldview resulted, not many years after the novel appeared, in the vicious post-Yugoslav wars of the '90s, in which the Serbs tried to resubjugate those ungrateful peoples; the first great Serbian crime of the war was the destruction of Vukovar with the attendant massacre of Croats, and Pavic was there to celebrate it:
In an essay by French essayist and publicist Annie Le Brun, she writes: "On the 18th of November 1992 the Serbian army had celebrated its first anniversary of the "liberation of Vukovar". On the speaker's platform, a UN representative heard one of the Serbian officers say that Vukovar rnay be destroyed, but that they will rebuild it. The Serbian officer stated that: "It is important that the air in the city is clean and that we can breathe freely". "After that", wrote Le Brun, "(...) Milorad, whose work The Dictionary of Khazars Le Brun characterised as a mixture of kitsch and folklore) proposed rebuilding baroque Vukovar in the Serbian-Byzantine style....
Pavic was a supporter of the war throughout; he's a traditional Serbian nationalist. None of this means that he's not a good writer or that you shouldn't enjoy his books, but I think it's important information that should at least be available.
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on November 29, 2004 [2 favorites]


languagehat - thank's for pointing that out. Of course, I didn't intend my book recommendation as a political endorsement either.

For those wishing to dig deeper into the literature of conflict, I also highly recommend The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric. Interested readers can find his biography at nobelprize.org.
posted by rdub at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2004


Great post! Here's another vote for Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is a book that haunted me in a really good way. Don't expect too much in the way of exposition-climax-resolution. I am in the middle of Hard Boiled Wonderland right now.

Faint of Butt. Brainfart.

Incidentally, one of the funnier combinations of words I've seen in a while.
posted by knave at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2004


Fun reading these posts about one of my five favorite wordsmiths. (Another would be Kafka...can't wait to read Murakami's due-out-in-January book!)

Above, someone said Murakami tries too hard. For me, that would be Ryu Murakami, whose strangeness was too forced for me. Haruki's strangeness seems natural and earned, to me. His strangest and best, I would agree, is Hard-Boiled Wonderland.

His short stories are good when read every few months in the New Yorker, but I can't sit down and read several at a time. I don't know why.
posted by kozad at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2004


I also highly recommend The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric.

An amazing book, and I think Andric is one of the underappreciated 20th-century writers... but I have to warn those of delicate sensitivities that The Bridge on the Drina (Na Drini cuprija) contains one of the most unforgettably repellent scenes I have ever read (a detailed description of an impalement). You have been warned.
posted by languagehat at 11:42 AM on November 29, 2004


but I have to warn those of delicate sensitivities

There's also the scene where the ear is nailed to the bridge. Though it's clearly not as graphic as impalement, I've had friends who stopped reading at that point.
posted by rdub at 1:21 PM on November 29, 2004


Although it's not my favorite Murakami book, Underground is one of my favorite nonfiction-books-of-all-time.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2004


Just for some balance, I will say that while I really enjoyed the first murakami I read, which was a 'a wild sheep chase', I then enjoyed but actually never finished the wind up bird chronicle... very similar themes, style, etc. HOwever, I do find that as I get older this happens to me more and more with new authors - read one of their books, and you feel a bit as if you've read them all (ie, you begin the second, and think, well, I pretty much already got this).

I plan to read norwegian wood at some point - maybe now, actually, as it's been a couple years since that first take, so it won't seem as familiar, plus my understanding is that norwegian wood has quite a different feel from his more recent stuff anyway.
posted by mdn at 2:53 PM on November 29, 2004


yes, read Wild Sheep Chase. i read HBW first so it stays with me a bit more, but i'd put Wild Sheep Chase far above it. the ending is much more satisfying than anything else i've read by him.

i honestly haven't read too much of his new stuff, past WUBC, but what i did read didn't excite me. i always keep an eye out for some of those earlier books i've never seen, but then i never see them.

nice tip on the foreign-language bookstores. i'm kicking myself for never thinking of it before (and i'm still not holding my breath on finding those two).
posted by mrgrimm at 3:57 PM on November 29, 2004


mdn, it's true, Norwegian Wood is pretty different from his other work (I can only speak to what I've read but I've heard this from others as well). I think I read somewhere that he disavowed it, or something like that?
posted by kenko at 4:24 PM on November 29, 2004


Just to toss out another title, "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning" happens to be a cute little ten-minute story.

Also, polyglots should check whether Murakami's new book "Kafka on the Shore" has been translated into another one of their languages. Korean and Chinese readers are in luck, as the book has already been translated and made available for a while now.
posted by msittig at 3:21 AM on November 30, 2004


kenko: Norwegian Wood was the book that brought Murakami to fame in Japan, but he didn't want to engage in the machinery of Japanese celebrity. So he moved to Greece, then the US. I get the impression from the interviews I read over the years that he's a bit tired of talking about Norweigian Wood, and he was resistant to publish the book in the US because of all the acclaim it garners.

On the other hand, Norwegian Wood is Murakami's own take on the watakushi genre of Japanese literature. He said he wanted to try writing in the that style, just to see how it would work out.

mrgrimm: I did some digging and it looks like you can still order the English translation of Hear the Wind Sing from Amazon Japan. No such luck with Pinball 1973, however. Nor with Alfred Birnbaum's two volume translation of Norwegian Wood (vs. the translation by Jay Rubin published in the US in 2000.)
posted by NemesisVex at 2:09 PM on November 30, 2004


I just remembered this Wendy Lesser article comparing Rubin's and Birnbaum's translations of Murakami, with some fascinating detailed analysis and no pretense at academic objectivity:
I adapted, eventually, to Jay Rubin's perfectly good translations, and even to the slightly more whimsical voice of Philip Gabriel, who did the English for Murakami's latest novel, Sputnik Sweetheart. But all along, the Birnbaum passion simmered. So you can imagine how the flame leapt up when I finished the Rubin translation of Norwegian Wood (Murakami's first huge best seller in Japan, published there in 1987 but not brought out in America until 2000) and read a reference in the Translator's Note to "Alfred Birnbaum's earlier translation of Norwegian Wood, which was produced for distribution in Japan ... to enable students to enjoy their favorite author as they struggled with the mysteries of English." We should not, the note enjoined us, try to obtain this bootleg version, for "the present edition is the first English translation that Murakami has authorized for publication outside Japan." Aha!, I thought. So Murakami (or Murakami-plus-Rubin) is indeed running away from Birnbaum, consciously suppressing him, attempting to do away with this shadow self.

Naturally I sought out the bootleg version immediately...
(There is further discussion, and more links, in the comment thread to my post on the subject.)
posted by languagehat at 3:38 PM on November 30, 2004


Murakami is truly mindbogglingly good. I too consider Wind-up Bird his masterpiece. Wild Sheep Chase was the first one I read so it holds a special place in my heart. But if I'd be pushed against a wall and a gun pressed against my temple and I was forced to choose a favorite book of all time, I'd go with Wind-up Bird.

I once went to a Murakami talk and he talked about how what he was trying to do with his fiction was to go into the "basement" of the psyche and find a door to what was beyond that. I'm paraphrasing wildly and probably completely misrepresenting him, but IIRC that was the gist of what he said. But anyway, I think his most concerted effort to do that was Wind-up Bird.

Also, he says that writing for him is like playing a videogame. He starts writing and then has to react to what he writes down, guiding his characters through the scenes. Again, paraphrasing wildly.

He's definitely unique on the world stage.
posted by Kattullus at 4:08 PM on November 30, 2004


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