Today’s post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” series. Today, I will be focusing on the life of Haruki Murakami. I read my first Haruki Murakami book this year (Norwegian Wood) and fell absolutely in love with his writing. I’ve since bought several of his other books but haven’t yet started them. Perhaps this will give me the kick to do so…
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
A Little Bit About Their Life
Haruki Murakami was born on 12 January 1949 in a post-World War II Kyoto, Japan. His parents were both teachers of Japanese literature and, as such, was surrounded by books and literature growing up. He read the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac and, growing up, was very interested in Western culture. Murakami was an only child. Not much is known about his childhood but he did write that his father was involved in the Second Sino-Japanese War and was deeply traumatised by it (this, in turn, would affect Murakami).
He studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo. His first job after university was at a record store. Murakami ended up opening up a coffeehouse and jazz bar in Tokyo with his wife in 1974. In 1978, whilst watching a baseball match at Jingu stadium, he was inspired to write a novel. This ended up being his first novel Hear the Wind Sing which he submitted to a new writer’s contest and won. The novel was published the next year.
His second novel, Pinball, 1973, was published in 1980 and was equally as successful as the first. This book was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize. Despite having two successful novels under his belt, it was only after this that he decided to pursue writing as a full-time career and sold off his jazz club.
He travelled extensively around Japan and wrote a couple more novels but it wasn’t until 1987 with the release of Norwegian Wood that he would receive international acclaim. The book became massively popular all over the world. After the success of this book, Murakami moved to New Jersey in January 1991 and became an Associate Researcher at Princeton University. He was pomoted to the post of Associate Professor at the university in 1992. He begun teaching at William Howard Taft University in California in 1993.
In 2002, his novel Kafka on the Shore was released. The English translation of the work was published in 2005 and it became an instant hit which received positive reviews and critical acclaim. In 2006 he was presented the international literary award, Franz Kafka Prize. His novel 1Q84 was published in three volumes in Japan during 2009-10 and became a sensation upon its release. The English language edition was out in 2011.
To this day, he remains married to Yoko whom he met whilst studying at Waseda University in the 70s.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read
As I mentioned, I read Norwegian Wood this year and instantly fell in love with the story in particular, but also Murakami’s writing. This book made it straight to my top five books of all time (a list I am constantly changing).
I have also read Desire which is a short story collection that I really enjoyed too. I also have Kafka on the Shore in my collection and ready to read.
Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work
I haven’t seen any but after doing some research saw that there was a 2010 adaptation of Norwegian Wood. I don’t know how good this would be or how much I would enjoy it because, for me, a lot of the beauty of this book comes from the language and the poetry of that and I’m unsure how that would translate to film. If you’ve seen it, let me know!
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
“If you remember me, then I don’t care if everyone else forgets.”
“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”
“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
“Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.”
“But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”
“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.”
There’s so many beautiful quotes by Murakami that I really struggled to select just a few.
An Author Biography Recommendation
There seems to be two really popular biographies about Murakami. One is Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami by David Karashima. Two is Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin.
Thank you for reading!
Love, Zoë x