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February 1, 2008 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Haruki Murakami doesn't do many interviews. However, he granted one to a University of Hawaii journalism student and it was published in the January 2007 issue of GQ Korea. The text has been translated by the blog owner. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
posted by spec80 (23 comments total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
Wicked, thanks.
posted by everichon at 8:54 AM on February 1, 2008

I am reading Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World right now! It is wonderfully weird.
posted by I Foody at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2008

I've never heard of this guy. Now I have. I will now read as many of his books as I can find. Thanks for posting.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 9:23 AM on February 1, 2008

Wow, amazing! I read Wind-up Bird Chronicle five years ago and it still flits though my mind now and again. Lovely book.

Thanks for this!
posted by Pecinpah at 9:24 AM on February 1, 2008

Oh yeah. I've said this before, but Murakami is one of the greatest writers alive.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2008

Murakami's work is one of the reasons I write. Thank you for posting this.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2008

I have read Wind-up Bird Chronicle more times than any other book. It has this strange, comforting quality. I don't know how else to describe it. The prose just sucks you in and you are lost in the weird word of Toru Okada. It is just magnificent.
posted by Po0py at 10:12 AM on February 1, 2008

[this is good]
posted by bonaldi at 10:29 AM on February 1, 2008

Nice find!
posted by cazoo at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2008

I am a HUGE Murakami fan... thanks for these! If you like Haruki, try reading Ryu Murakami as well (he directed Tokyo Decadence, one of my favorite films).

I think Hard-Boiled Wonderland trumps all other Murakami books, but I've only read five so far...
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2008

Currently in the home stretch with Kafka..., so this is great timing, spec80 - many thanks! It's neither my first Murakami nor my last...
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:49 AM on February 1, 2008

Thanks for this. My wife is a big fan and she'll go nuts when she sees it!
posted by owtytrof at 10:55 AM on February 1, 2008

Murakami came to a literary festival in Iceland a few years ago. I tried to get an interview with him but was unsuccessful (I did score an interview with Yann Martel though, which was great, too bad the magazine I took the interview for folded before the first issue came out). He had two events, one where he was interviewed in a public setting and the other was a Q and A. The public interview was a disaster. The interviewer's questions were terrible, the kind that elicit responses of "I don't know" from the interviewee (e.g. why do you write? what's the core of your writing? etc.) but the Q and A was better and I did get to ask him a question, the last one, it turned out.

But yes, this was a good interview. Murakami is a great author, one of the writers I foist on everyone I know. I consider Wind-up Bird Chronicle to be his masterpiece, but I never recommend it as the first thing to read by him. Depending on the person I usually recommend either Norwegian Wood (his most realistic, as he mentions in the interview), Wild Sheep Chase (accessible but surreal) or Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (philosophical science fiction). Personably the book the first book I read and hooked me completely was Wild Sheep Chase.
posted by Kattullus at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2008

Incredible. If anybody's interested, here's the Korean language interview, which seems to have been originally conducted in English. There's actually a lot that the blogger didn't translate. Here's some bits I thought were nice and interesting and weren't translated. (Sorry for the quick translation):

JYL: What about the newspapers? Doesn't the Japanese media like to create debates between novelists and feminists, novelists and politicians?

HM: That's true, but my solution is simple. I turn the other way, and tell them that I don't want to take part in any kind of debate. As an independent individual, I don't want to be part of any group or any society, even the literary world. I don't make 'writer friends'. My friends are all 'regular' people. Rather than heated discussions or debates, I'd rather talk about music, cats, things like these. I'm not a social person, and I'm not friendly to everybody. The world I live in is very limited; I carefully choose those people who I would like to keep in my life, and I try to care my best about them.

And later:

JYL: Do you have a novel you're working on currently?

HM: Well, right now I'm taking a rest and thinking about starting my next novel in December. I don't have anything specific in mind. I always start my novels from a blank slate -- If I think 'I should write something like this', it just becomes a burden. All I need is an initial scene. But that initial scene needs to be very concrete, very fresh and vivid, very clear. I don't even decide my characters or an overall story, but with a definite first scene I'm full of confidence -- confidence that I'll be able to complete a good novel.

JYL: Then did the 'Wind-up Bird Chronicle' come from the initial scene of the man cooking?

HM: Yes. When I started writing, my mind was filled with that single image of the protagonist cooking spaghetti. I myself didn't know what would happen next, and I just took it from that point onwards. I'll explain it this way. Let's say that I pick a point, far in the distance, and I decide to start running towards it. I don't know what events might happen while I'm on the path, running. The reason why a well-written novel is exciting is because you don't know what's going to happen. It's the same for me -- I'm curious because I don't know what events might lie around the bend, and because I'm curious it becomes exciting, and because it's exciting, I keep on writing.

And even later:

JYL: I'll go back to talking about novels. Haruki-san, do you ever feel empathy for your characters ? Your novels often create a sadness and loneliness in the reader..

HM: Of course. Without empathy, there is no writing. Did you say you read 'Sputnik Sweetheart'? As you know, the protagonist is a nineteen-year old lesbian. I started the novel after I was thirty, so how would the Haruki-in-his-thirties really know the thoughts that a nineteen-year old girl would have, or what thoughts a lesbian would have? But if I project Sumire onto myself, with all my might, if I approach things with empathy and live life like Sumire then an image forms. Ah, this is how she would love, this is where her sorrow comes from. You look through Sumire's eyes into the world. Everything starts from a powerful empathy.

JYL: "In the spring of her 22nd year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life. An intense love, a veritable tornado sweeping across the plains - flattening everything in its path, tossing things up in the air, ripping them to shreds, crushing them to bits." Your 'Sputnik Sweetheart' starts this way and depicts an image of two women in love. How did you create the Korean-Japanese chracter of Miu? I'm curious to whether there was an actual person on which you modeled the character on.

HM: My assistant is second-generation Korean-Japanese. This friend was my closest help for ten years, and her background gave me a lot of ideas, because she talked about her family often. I'm not the type to research obsessively about details before I write; I will do research, but very rarely. Even when I wrote about the island of Shikoku, which became the setting of 'Kafka on the Shore', I had never been near the area. I went there only after I had finished the book, and I had an odd feeling, say, the sensation of déjà vu. I've never been to Korea, but I've imagined about it, based on the stories [my assistant] would tell me. Oh, by the way, she's very beautiful.

JYL: Have you also loved someone in that way? Like the veritable tornado sweeping across the plains?

HM: Hmm. When I was young. It wasn't a recent thing, for sure. (laughs)

JYL: Would it be possible for you to say anything more about it?

HM: It's wasn't very romantic... (he bows his head as if reminiscing, and thinks for two minutes) I'm sorry, but I won't comment.

JYL: Perhaps just the reason you won't comment?

HM: Just a desire to keep my memories within myself.

posted by suedehead at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2008 [19 favorites]

For some reason I have much more respect for those artists and novelists who whish to keep themselves to themselves and let their work do the talking.
posted by Po0py at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

So do I, poopy.

Great post!
posted by joedan at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2008

this is why I love MeFi..I'd never heard of this guy
posted by sfts2 at 11:44 AM on February 1, 2008

Thanks suedehead for taking the time to translate all that.
posted by Kattullus at 12:17 PM on February 1, 2008

Definitive Paris Review interview, complete with manuscript page.
posted by It ain't over yet at 12:51 PM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thanks for posting the link. I've devoured everything I could get my hands on by Murakami, I love his writing - it's simple and beautiful and kind of calm and other-worldly. I've heard him compared to Chandler and Philip K. Dick (amongst others) and I think that's pretty spot on.
posted by jiroczech at 12:59 PM on February 1, 2008

Previously (kind of.)
posted by NemesisVex at 1:46 PM on February 1, 2008

I love Murakami, and happily second all mentions of "Wind-Up Bird," "Kafka," and "Hard Boiled", but I think the one that I find emotionally most compelling is "South of the Border, West of the Sun." It doesn't have the literary fireworks, but it has heart.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:17 PM on February 1, 2008

German newsmagazine Spiegel Interview with Murakami

I don't think the above warrants another FPP, but hopefully you guys who favorited this are still checking up on the thread. Yay for the new My Favorites tab! Enjoy!
posted by spec80 at 7:14 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

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