Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Murakami magic

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What strikes me about Haruki Murakami is how such a worldwide audience has embraced his novels. People have taken to his writing not for its Japanese-ness, but for its stories and universal themes.

The 60-year-old Murakami is not your typical Japanese author. The jazz lover and triathlete has lived in the United States, Greece and Italy, and his works have been translated into over 40 languages. He is a regular favourite in Nobel literature prize predictions and has won various international awards, most recently from the Spanish government.

I recently had the chance to chat with Murakami for about an hour and a half in his office in Tokyo about his latest novel, “1Q84″ – the two-volume, 1,055-page novel with a title suggestive of George Orwell’s “1984″, as the Japanese word for 9 is pronounced the same as the English letter “Q”. We also spoke about the impact of religious cults and the 9/11 attacks and on his works, as well as about dreams and the Japanese language.

BOOKS-AUTHOR/MURAKAMI

Here are some of the themes I found especially interesting. (You can read the entire Q+A here)
1) The realness of unreal things
“I think people are gradually starting to understand and accept the realness of unreal things. To me, Sept. 11 does not feel like an incident that took place in the real world. There must be a world somewhere that this didn’t happen. I think this mood is shared by everyone, and that would help set the grounds for 1Q84 to be accepted.”

Murakami’s “1Q84″ grips Japan

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Bookworms right across Japan are flipping the pages of “1Q84″, the latest novel by Haruki Murakami. The print run of the hardback version has already topped the 740,000 copies of his earlier work “Kafka on the Shore”, and more than 1 million copies are likely to have hit the store shelves by the end of this month.

“If a literary work sells 50,000 copies, we call that a bestseller. With 100,000 copies, that’s a huge success,” Fumiaki Mori, a spokesman for publisher Shinchosha Publishing Co Ltd, told me. “By that standard, reaching this number in about 10 days since sales began is a very fast pace.”

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