Today is Haruki Murakami’s 71st birthday! He was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1949. For those who don’t know who he is (I’d be surprised!), he’s an incredibly well-known and loved Japanese writer. His work has been translated in 50 different languages and remains on bestseller lists internationally. He has over ten fiction works and two non-fiction books. Some of his most popular books are: Norwegian Wood (1987), 1Q84 (2009-2010), Kafka on the Shore (2002) and a Wild Sheep Chase (1982).
Norwegian Wood (1987)
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A magnificent blending of the music, the mood, and the ethos that was the sixties with the story of one college student’s romantic coming of age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.”
“A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.”
Kafka on the Shore (2002)
“Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.”
and to share with you the book I am currently reading by him, it’s called the Colorless Life of Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage! It came out in 2013.
“A New York Times and Washington Post notable book, and one of the Financial Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Slate, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, and BookPage’s best books of the year
An instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.”
I originally went to the used bookstore to find Norwegian Wood but it’s so popular that they didn’t have any and it’s not available to order right now either. I settled on this one because the first page was so interesting and I needed to know what happens next. It does seem sad but the writing is so beautiful so I can’t put it down. I’m not very far into it yet but I hope to finish it this weekend.
I decided that even though this book has mixed ratings, I’d let it be my first Haruki Murakami book because it was so captivating. I rarely ever pick up books I know nothing about and after reading that first page, it was hard to say no.
If you’re wondering why I am just now reading his books, I decided I would start reading more Japanese translated works since I’m learning Japanese and Haruki Murakami is an absolute legend when it comes to translated fiction. I also just wanted more books set in Japan!
Have you ever read anything by Haruki Murakami? What book was it and how’d you feel?
One thought on “Happy Birthday, Haruki Murakami!”
I have read his book of short storis. I read the Colorless book not long ago and JUST finished 1Q84. There is something compelling about Murakami’s writing. He writes at one level but the meaning swims under the surface like a very large sea creature. Very cool he just had a birthday.