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On Haruki Murakami
Hello, let me tell you how I fell in love with the work of Haruki Murakami.

Well, you see, Haruki Murakami is this Japanese writer, translator,
erstwhile jazz bar owner, and long-distance runner. I could go on to
tell you that his novels have been translated into more than forty
languages, or that he was given the controversial 2009 Jerusalem Prize
on top of many other awards. But none of that would tell you why I
have become obsessed with his work.

It wouldn’t help you understand why I have never before or since felt
so keenly the desire to read everything someone else has written.

Inside Someone Else's Head

In most of his novels and stories Murakami puts us inside the head of
a pensive, solitary guy with a knack for peculiar observations,
strangely apt figures of speech, and attracting metaphysical trouble.
I first met him in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,
where he proceeded to win me over with a thorough, humorous
consideration of elevators, of all things.

Now, I like to think of myself as a pensive, solitary guy with a knack
for peculiar observations, so perhaps it was inevitable for me to form
a strong, even wishful, identification with this protagonist. This
willing immersion is helped immensely by Murakami's deft story-telling
and unmistakable ear for rhythm.

I am an introvert, and so spend a lot of time – some would say too
much time – inside my head. I have to tell you, it was a wonderful,
pleasant surprise to find out that I am just as comfortable nestled
inside this fictional head as I am inside mine!

Largely passive, this main character often finds himself listening to
the stories of other people, proving himself an intelligent,
sympathetic listener, seeming to naturally ask the right questions at
the right time. All that time spent listening to his own thoughts, I
suppose, must have attuned him to the rhythms of narrative and
thought, even those not his own.

Music and the Rhythm

Rhythm is just as important in writing and storytelling as it is in
music. I know, from unfortunate experience, how even the funniest joke
or most interesting anecdote can fall flat if told without regard for
properly timed delivery. This quality of being “in rhythm”, while
being difficult to describe, is unmistakable. And Murakami, an avowed
lover of music having run a jazz bar for some years, has unmistakably
got it.

Murakami’s language is deceptively simple, avoiding complicated
sentence structures and scholarly diction in favor of being frank and
straightforward. He works his pared-down language skillfully; the
ceaseless interior monologue of his protagonist feels natural and
uncontrived. Once meeting his main character had hooked me, getting me
to stay was no problem at all. I didn’t even want to leave.

Reading him is in fact like listening to a favorite record:
engrossing, familiar, rewarding. It matters little whether he is
describing the most mundane of activities or discussing loss – of
life, love, innocence, or any one of those essential things curled up
inside us.

Escape and Exploration

Murakami’s protagonists more often than not live lives that seem just
as pared-down and inevitable as his language.

They lead isolated existences, with barely any contact with or
attachment to society. Reserved and self-sufficient, they touch other
people’s lives only incidentally, or more relevantly, by accident.
They remain inside their own heads, either lost in contemplation or
fully absorbed in the current moment.

For an introvert like me, not much seems to be more satisfying than
living alone, cooking and doing housework for myself, spending my time
reading, downing the occasional beer, and, of course, thinking. It is
much too easy for me to fantasize about leaving everything behind and
living such a peaceful, carefree life.

However, everything is not always as it seems, and I eventually get a
nagging, gradually strengthening feeling that something isn’t quite
right. In the external narrative, strange events and people filter
through and widen the cracks. Then, I experience, along with the
protagonist, a certain internal current, an ominous movement in the

And thus I come to recognize that, if I want to escape into Murakami’s
world, I must also be prepared to explore the mysterious darknesses
within myself. The characters I meet in Murakami’s world are troubled
souls, carrying burdens deep within themselves. Just like me and you.

Haruki Murakami and me, and you

As I near the end of this, my communication with you, I begin to feel
with greater intensity the desire to do right by Haruki Murakami. He
has, through his writing, managed to reach out and touch my mind, to
share a part of himself with me in a deep, significant way.

I can only hope that some small echo of my experience has come
through. As our brief acquaintance ends, I hope that you will listen
closely for a soft, resonant note sounding within yourself, and pay

In Murakami’s world, as perhaps in our own, the music that grows from
such tiny beginnings may very well transport us to places we never
thought we’d be.

Posted via email from momeng's posterous


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