Category Archives: Culture

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami (name written in English-style, first name and then last name) is a Japanese author and translator.  He’s penned a number of novels and short stories, working in both fiction and non-fiction.

Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture from a young age.  He read works by Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac, among others.  Having these Western authors as an influence helped Murakami distinguish himself from other Japanese authors later in life.

He hadn’t always wanted to be an author.  In fact, Murakami studied drama at Waseda University.  Shortly before graduation, he and his wife opened a coffee house/jazz bar called Peter Cat, which was in operation from 1974 to 1981.

Fun fact: Murakami started running at age 33 and is now a marathon runner and a triathlete.  He wrote a memoir on the subject titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Murakami often recounts how he began writing his first novel – Hear the Wind Song – after being inspire at a baseball game.  When a player from the US, Dave Hilton, stepped up to bat and hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized he could write a novel.  He started that same night.

The initial success of his first novel encouraged him to continue writing and he followed Hear the Wind Song up with Pinball, 1973.  A Wild Sheep Chase completed what’s called the Trilogy of the Rat.  His first two novels aren’t available in English outside of Japan.  They were released in English as a study aide for Japanese students learning English.  A Wild Sheep Chase was the “first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story.” According to Murakami, he felt his first two novels were weak in comparison.  “When you read a good story, you just keep reading.  When I write a good story, I just keep writing.”  From there, he gained popularity in Japan and abroad.  Though, like any great author, he had his critics.

Aside from his own fiction and non-fiction writing, he has translated many English authors into Japanese.  Most notable are works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, J.D. Salinger, and Shel Silverstein.

Now, why am I writing about this author?  First off, he’s my favorite author.  I first came across his books while I was a student at University of Iowa.  A Wild Sheep Chase was required reading for one of my classes.  His reoccurring themes of loneliness and isolation resonated with me and my battle with depression and still do.  The surrealism often found in his books is also something I connect with.  The idea of things not always being as they seem has always been fascinating to me.

More importantly than that is that I see Murakami as an inspiration.  He didn’t write his first novel until he was 29 years old.  At 25, I see Murakami and his career track as something comforting.  I feel pressure to have it all figured out right now and decide the path I’ll take from here on out.  Murakami proves to me that I can do anything at any point in my life.   It’s because of him and the planning that went into this post that I’ve actually decided to take up running to get into shape.

Whoever inspires you, enjoy the journey.

-Kate

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