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Haruki Murakami (村上春樹 Murakami Haruki; born January 12, 1949) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described by the Virginia Quarterly Review as "easily accessible, yet profoundly complex".
He was born in Kyoto but spent most of his youth in Kobe. His father was a Buddhist priest. His mother was the daughter of a merchant from Osaka. They both taught Japanese literature.
Murakami, however, is more interested in American literature, which distinguishes him from the Japanese literary mainstream.
He studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was in a record store. After finishing his studies he opened the jazz bar "Peter Cat" in Tokyo, which he ran from 1974-1982. Many of his novels have musical themes and titles referring to a particular song, including Dance, Dance, Dance (from The Dells or The Beach Boys), Norwegian Wood (after the Beatles song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).
Murakami did not write any fiction until his early thirties. According to Murakami, he was suddenly and inexplicably inspired to write his first novel (Hear the Wind Sing, 1979) while watching a baseball game. Murakami worked on it for several months in very brief stretches after working days at the bar (resulting in a fragmented, jumpy text in short chapters). After finishing, he sent his novel to the only literary contest that would accept a work of that length, and won first prize. Even in this first work many of the basic elements of Murakami's mature writing are in place: Westernized style, idiosyncratic humor, and poignant nostalgia.
His initial success encouraged him to keep writing. A year later he published Pinball, 1973, a sequel. (His first two novels are out of print in English translation outside of Japan.) In 1982 he published A Wild Sheep Chase, a critical success, which makes original use of fantastic elements and has a uniquely disconnected plot. These novels (along with the later Dance, Dance, Dance) form the "Tetralogy of the Rat", centered on the same unnamed narrator and his friend called "the Rat". In 1985 he published Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a dreamlike fantasy which takes the magical elements in his work to a new extreme.
Murakami achieved a major breakthrough and national recognition in 1987 with the publication of Norwegian Wood, a nostalgic story of loss and sexualilty. Norwegian Wood sold millions of copies among Japanese youth, making Murakami something of a superstar in his native country (to his dismay). The book was printed in two separate parts, sold together. One book had a green cover, the other a red one. Some hardcore fans of the book would wear clothing of that colour to show their preference for that part. In 1986, Murakami left Japan, travelled throughout Europe, and settled in the United States.
Murakami taught at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ and at Tufts University in Medford, MA. During this time he wrote Dance, Dance, Dance and South of the Border, West of the Sun.
In 1994/1995 he published The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This novel seamlessly fuses both his realistic and fantastic tendencies, and contains elements of physical violence. It is also more socially conscious than his previous work, dealing in part with the difficult topic of the Japanese war crimes in Manchuria (Manchukuo). The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is the novel most frequently cited by critics as Murakami's greatest. For this novel he won the Yomiuri Literary Award, which was awarded to him by one of his harshest former critics, Kenzaburo Oe.
The processing of collective trauma took a central position in Murakami's writing, which had until then been more light-hearted in nature. While he was finishing Chronicle, Japan was shaken by the Kobe earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack, in the aftermath of which he returned to Japan. He came to terms with these events with his first work of non-fiction, Underground, and the short story collection After the Quake. These books relate to Murakami's previous works through the recurring themes of individuals who are removed from their daily lives through single, sudden acts, as well as subterranean worlds, as seen most prominently in Hard Boiled Wonderland. Underground consists largely of interviews of victims of the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system, and it shows a society mysteriously different from modern America. Many of the interviewees express not hatred or condemnation of the attackers, but a desire to understand them, even in some cases to forgive.
Short stories are an important part of Murakami's oeuvre. Apart from Quake, many of his stories written between 1983 and 1990 have been published in English under the title The Elephant Vanishes. He has also translated many of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Truman Capote, John Irving and Paul Theroux, among others.
His latest novels are the succinct Sputnik Sweetheart, first published in 1999, and Kafka on the Shore, from 2002, the English translation of which was published in 2005. The English version of his latest novel, After Dark, is to be released in 2010. In late 1995, Murakami published a collection of short stories titled Tōkyō Kitanshū (東京奇譚集, translates loosely as "Tokyo Urban Legends").
Murakami's fiction, which is often criticised for being "pop" literature by Japan's literary establishment, is humorous and surreal, and at the same time reflects an essential alienation, loneliness and longing for love in a way that has touched readers in the US and Europe, as well as in East Asia.
Recently, director Jun Ichikawa adapted Murakami's short story Tony Takitani into a 75 minute feature. The film has played at various film festivals and was released in New York and Los Angeles July 29, 2005. The original short story (as translated by Jay Rubin) is available in the April 15, 2002 issue of the New Yorker.
- Hear the Wind Sing (1979)
- 風の歌を聴け (Kaze no uta o kike)
- Pinball, 1973 (1980)
- 1973年のピンボール (1973-nen no pinbōru)
- A Wild Sheep Chase (1982)
- 羊をめぐる冒険 (Hitsuji o meguru bōken)
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)
- 世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド (Sekai no owari to hâdoboirudo wandārando)
- Norwegian Wood (1987)
- ノルウェイの森 (Noruwei no mori)
- Dance, Dance, Dance (1988)
- ダンス・ダンス・ダンス (Dansu dansu dansu)
- South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)
- 国境の南、太陽の西 (Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi)
- The Elephant Vanishes (1993)
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994/5)
- ねじまき鳥クロニクル (Nejimaki-dori kuronikuru)
- Three Volume Paperback Edition:
- Nejimakidori Chronicle Vol. 1 dorobou kasasagi hen
- Nejimakidori Chronicle Vol. 2 yogen suru tori hen
- Nejimakidori Chronicle Vol. 3 torisashi otoko hen
- Underground (1997/8)
- アンダーグラウンド (Andaguraundo)
- Sputnik Sweetheart (1999)
- スプートニクの恋人 (Spūtoniku no koibito)
- After the Quake (2000)
- 神の子どもたちはみな踊る (Kami no kodomo-tachi wa mina odoru)
- Kafka on the Shore (2002)
- 海辺のカフカ (Umibe no Kafuka)
- After Dark (2004) - English version to be released in 2010
- アフターダーク (Afutādāku)
- Sleep (2004) - Short story which also appears in The Elephant Vanishes
- Two chapters from the original three volume paperback edition of Nejimakidori Kuronikuru (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), originally found in the third volume Nejimakidori Chronicle Vol. 3 torisashi otoko hen, were not included in the English translation by Jay Rubin. In addition, one of the chapters near the excluded two was moved ahead of another chapter, taking it out of the context of the original order. The two missing chapters elaborate on the relationship between main characters Toru Okada and Creta Kano, and a "hearing" of the wind-up bird as Toru burns a box of his wife Kumiko's belongings.
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