Who is Haruki Murakami?
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author cum translator whose works of fiction and non-fiction are critically acclaimed the world over and not just in Japan. Considered a significant figure in postmodern literature, his works are characterized by elements of surrealism and nihilism. Themes like loneliness and alienation are recurrent in his works. He is the proud recipient of several awards like Franz Kafka Prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Jerusalem Prize. The surprising fact about this famous author is that he never dreamed of being a writer from a young age. He entered the writing profession purely by chance. After studying drama he opened a coffeehouse and jazz bar, and writing was the last thing on his mind. He got the sudden inspiration to write a novel when he was watching a baseball match and since then there has been no looking back. He wrote his first piece of literary work, a 200-page novel which he sent to a writing contest for new writers. He won the first prize and was inspired to write more. He soon quit his jazz bar business and began writing full time. Today, he is considered to be "among the world's greatest living novelists" by ‘The Guardian’.
Childhood & Early Life
Murakami was born in post World War II Japan to parents who both taught Japanese literature. As a child he read the works of various American authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan and Jack Kerouac.
He was heavily influenced by Western culture from a young age and this is often reflected in his works which differentiates him from other Japanese writers.
He studied drama at the Waseda University in Tokyo.
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He began his career at a record store. He opened a coffeehouse and jazz bar in Tokyo with his wife in 1974.
In 1978, while he was watching a baseball match in Jingu stadium he was suddenly inspired to write a novel. He began writing and had completed a 200 page novel by autumn of the year and sent the work titled ‘Hear the Wind Sing’ to a new writer’s contest which he won. The novel was published the next year.
His second novel, ‘Pinball, 1973’ was published in 1980. The book explored the themes of loneliness, companionship, and destiny. The novel was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize.
With the success of his novels he chose to pursue writing as a full time career and sold off his jazz club.
In 1982, he released the novel ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’. This along with its preceding two novels comprised the ‘Trilogy of the Rat’ series.
Over the next few years he traveled to Fujisawa and then Sendagaya. In 1985, he published ‘Hard boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’. It was a strange and surreal novel split between parallel narratives.
Within a period of two years he brought out ‘Norwegian Wood’ (1987). The novel was set in the Tokyo of late 1960s, a period when Japanese students were protesting against the established order. The novel became extremely popular among the youth.
He moved to New Jersey in January 1991 and became an Associate Researcher at Princeton University. He was promoted to the post of Associate Professor at the university in 1992. He started teaching at William Howard Taft University in 1993.
Over the 1990s he published novels like ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ (1992), ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ (1995), and ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ (1999).
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In 2002, his novel ‘Kafka on the Shore’ was out. The English translation of the work was published in 2005 and it became an instant hit which received positive reviews and critical acclaim.
His novel ‘1Q84’ was published in three volumes in Japan during 2009-10 and became a sensation upon its release. The English language edition was out in 2011.
Several of his works have been adapted into plays and films. In addition to novels he has also written numerous short stories that have appeared in various publications.
His novel ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ is a surreal and dreamlike narration that alternates between the ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland’ and ‘The End of the World. This novel is considered to be one of his finest works.
The novel ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ is a part mystery and part fantasy work which combines elements of American and English literature with post war Japanese cultural identity. The award winning story is written in form of a mock-detective tale.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006 he was presented the international literary award, Franz Kafka Prize.
He received the Jerusalem Prize in 2009. The prize is a biennial literary award that is given to writers whose work deals with themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government.
Personal Life & Legacy
He is married to Yoko whom he first met while studying at Waseda University.
He donated €80,000 winnings from the International Catalunya Prize to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
He is an amateur marathon runner.