Murakami Haruki

Tagged: Author

(1949-    ) Japanese writer, translator and former jazz bar proprietor, inspired by such Americana as the stories of Richard Brautigan and the Absurdist SF of Kurt Vonnegut. Murakami's laconic prose is thick with American allusions and quite unlike the insular intricacies of earlier Japanese literature. His rambling, pensive characters, often suppressing emotional trauma through the pursuit of an unlikely McGuffin, are joined in later books by a recurring obsession with Japanese expansionism on the Asian mainland, particularly in World War Two. Many works juxtapose a contemporary world seen in terms of drab farce with a fantastical and ultimately allegorical Parallel World.

The semi-autobiographical Rat Sequence chronicles the 1970s through the eyes of a would-be author, beginning in Kaze no Uta o Kike (June 1979 Gunzō; trans by Alfred Birnbaum as Hear the Wind Sing, 1987) with fannish appreciations of the fictional American novelist Derek Heartfield, a suicidal pulp author modelled in equal parts on Robert E Howard and Yukio Mishima. 1973-nen no Pinball (March 1980 Gunzō, trans by Alfred Birnbaum as Pinball 1973, 1985) comprises a melancholy quest for a pinball machine believed to hold the ghost of a former lover (> Identity Transfer). Translated in domestic editions for students of English, neither work was released outside East Asia at the author's own insistence. Hence, most foreign readers only encounter the Rat Sequence through its Noma-award winning third instalment, Hitsuji o Meguru Bōken (August 1982 Gunzō; trans Alfred Birnbaum as A Wild Sheep Chase 1989), which augments the earlier paradigm with a Chandleresque quest for a fabricated sheep, mixing Fabulation and nightmare. With Murakami's consent, the translation redacts period details and inserts some 1980s anachronisms, divorcing it from the chronology of the books that originally framed it. The final volume, Dance Dance Dance (1988; trans Alfred Birnbaum 1994) features a dingy flophouse that somehow still inhabits the same space as the plush new hotel that has supplanted it, just as shadows of the past haunt the modern Japanese psyche. (> Magic Realism; Time Paradoxes).

Although little more than a mundane recycling of Murakami's earlier concerns, the phenomenally successful Norway no Mori (1987, trans twice as Norwegian Wood, 1989 Japan and 2000) [see Checklist for details] made him a wealthy man. Fleeing media attention in Japan for two years on the US lecture circuit, he wrote a survey of modern Japanese literature, Wakai Dokushu no tame no Tanpen Shōsetsu Annai ["An Introduction to Young Authors"] (1997). Meanwhile, eager American academics elbowed aside Murakami's earlier, less laurelled translators, not always for the better, leading to several works available in rival editions. Later novels repeat the formulae of idiosyncratic quests and mournful elegies, but with named narrators different from the unidentified "I" who unites the Rat Sequence. Sekai no Owari to Hard-boiled Wonderland (1985; trans Alfred Birnbaum as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 1991; vt The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 1991) presents separate but converging narratives in the style of Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan (1959); the first depicts a Future War for data in a Near-Future Japan that has become definable as a nest of information; the second depicts a fantasy realm where scribes extract dreams from the skulls of unicorns. Such dovetailed trajectories recur in Umibe no Kafka (2002, trans by Philip Gabriel as Kafka on the Shore, 2005) and shades of Philip K Dick can be found in the Alternate World in which the protagonist of 1Q84 ["1984"] (2009; trans by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel 2011) finds herself (> George Orwell; Franz Kafka).

Murakami was also formerly the Japanese translator of Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, F Scott Fitzgerald, and John Irving, among others, until this parallel career was overshadowed by the success of his own fiction. His genre translations include The Polar Express (1985, trans 1987) by Chris Van Allsburg and Catwings (1988, trans 1992) by Ursula K Le Guin. His immense stylistic influence on contemporary Japanese, Chinese and Korean popular culture is discernible in everything from increased sales of Beatles albums, to the intersecting vignettes of Wong Kar-wai's film Chungking Express (1994) and the sentimental Anime of Makoto Shinkai. The quintessence of Murakami is the twice-translated, twice-filmed "Shigatsu Aru no Hareta Asa ni 100 Percent Onna no Ko ni De'au Koto ni Tsuite" (July 1981 Trèfle, coll 1983, trans as "On Meeting My 100% Woman One Fine April Morning", 1991 [see Checklist for details]) a brief encounter that extrapolates a mere glance at a passing stranger into a whole world of what-if.

The Elephant Vanishes (coll trans Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin 1993) and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (coll trans Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel 2006) assemble shorter works from several Japanese collections. [JonC/JC]

Haruki Murakami

born Kyoto, Japan: 12 January 1949

died

works

Rat sequence

  • Kaze no Uta o Kike (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1979) [Rat: binding unknown/]
    • Hear the Wind Sing (Tokyo: Kōdansha English Library, 1987) [trans of the above by Alfred Birnbaum: released only in Japan: Rat: pb/Maki Sasaki]
  • 1973-nen no Pinball (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1980) [Rat: binding unknown/]
    • Pinball 1973 (Tokyo: Kōdansha English Library, 1985) [trans of the above by Alfred Birnbaum: released only in Japan: Rat: pb/Maki Sasaki]
  • Hitsuji o Meguru Bōken (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1982) [Rat: binding unknown/]
    • A Wild Sheep Chase (Tokyo: Kōdansha English Library, 1989) [published in two volumes: trans of the above by Alfred Birnbaum: released only in Japan: Rat: pb/Maki Sasaki]
      • A Wild Sheep Chase (Tokyo Kōdansha International, 1989) [international edition of the above with student notes removed: Rat: hb/Shigeo Okamoto]
  • Dance Dance Dance (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1988) [Rat: binding unknown/]
    • Dance Dance Dance (Tokyo: Kōdansha International, 1994) [trans of the above by Alfred Birnbaum: Rat: hb/Maki Sasaki]

individual titles

collections

  • Chūgoku-yuki no Slow Boat ["A Slow Boat to China"] (Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha, 1983) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • "A Slow Boat to China", "The Kangaroo Communiqué" and "The Last Lawn of the Afternoon" from this collection trans by Alfred Birnbaum in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
    • "The Kangaroo Communiqué" from this collection trans by Philip Gabriel (Spring 1988 ZYZZYVA) [mag/]
    • "A Perfect Day for Kangaroos" from this collection trans by Ted Goossen in Soho Square IV (London: Bloomsbury Press, 1991) edited by Bill Manhire [anth: pb/]
    • "The New York Mining Disaster" from this collection trans by Philip Gabriel (11 January 1999 The New Yorker) [mag/]
  • Kangaroo-biyori ["A Perfect Day for Kangaroos"] (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1983) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • "On Meeting My 100% Woman One Fine April Morning" from this collection translated by Kevin Flanagan and Tamotsu Omi in New Japanese Voices (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991) edited by Helen Mitsios [anth: hb/]
    • "In the Year of Spaghetti" from this collection trans by Ted Goossen (Summer 1992 Descant 76) [mag/]
    • "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" and "A Window" trans by Jay Rubin in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
    • "A Poor-Aunt Story" from this collection trans by Jay Rubin (3 December 2001 The New Yorker) [mag/]
    • "Dabchick" from this collection trans by Jay Rubin (Winter 2000 McSweeney's) [mag/]
  • Hotaru, Naya o Yaku, Sono-ta no Tanpen ["Firefly, Barn Burning, and Other Stories"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1984) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • "Barn Burning" from this collection trans by Alfred Birnbaum in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
    • "The Dancing Dwarf" from this collection trans by Jay Rubin in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
  • Kaiten Mokuba no Dead Heat ["Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1985) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • "Lederhosen" from this collection translated by Alfred Birnbaum in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
  • Pan'ya Saishūgeki ["The Second Bakery Attack"] (Tokyo Bungei Shunjūsha, 1986) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1993) [coll: trans by Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin of the following stories from the above: "The Fall of the Roman Empire, The 1881 Indian Uprising, Hitler's Invasion of Poland, and the Realm of the Raging Winds", "The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women", "The Second Bakery Attack", "The Elephant Vanishes" and Family "Affair": hb/Chip Kidd]
  • TV People (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjūsha, 1990) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • "TV People" and "Sleep" from this collection translated by Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin in The Elephant Vanishes (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1993) [coll: hb/]
  • Tōkyō Kitanshū ["Strange Tales from Tokyo"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2005) [coll: hb/]
    • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (London: Harvill Secker, 2006) [coll: trans by Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin of the above: plus earlier and later stories: hb/various images]

nonfiction

Murakami's prolific nonfiction work spans essays, music appreciations and travel diaries, and is only sampled here.

about the author

links

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