Though sometimes criticized in his home country for the un-Japaneseness of his writing, Haruki Murakami is probably the most well known and influential writer in Japan today.
I haven’t read all of his books, but I have read a few, enough to get a sense of his writing and style, I hope: Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and 1Q84.
Across these books, there are a lot of recurring themes: an intimate writing style, introspective characters that spend a lot of the time busy with mundane tasks, musical themes, sexual overtones… and for some reason, a lot of his characters seem to share the name Toru, as well. But by far the thing that stands out the most across these books is the magical realism he infuses into every one of his stories.
For those who don’t know, magical realism is a style of writing where magical or unexplainable things happen in what otherwise seems to be our everyday world. In Murakami’s case this involves talking cats, fish falling from the sky, a second moon appearing, and so on. The meaning of these events is often left to interpretation. Whether they’re a representation of the character’s feelings or real events is up to you, but they’re nevertheless often essential to the story and do move the plot along. These events give his books a surreal quality that stays with you long after you’re done reading them. I’ve forgotten many of the plot details of his books, as I read them a while ago, but I do remember how I felt while reading them, and that is an achievement in and of itself.
Norwegian Wood, named after the Beatles song, is the novel that catapulted him to fame abroad. It also happens to be the most grounded in reality of the ones I’ve read. Even though it’s not as fantastical as the others, it’s probably Murakami’s knack for describing the characters’ mental states that attracted people to this particular work.
My personal favorite, though, is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Without spoiling too much, it is a haunting book and, again, while I don’t remember every detail, some of the scenes are forever seared into my brain.
By the time you finish one of Murakami’s books, it’s entirely possible you’ll have more questions than answers, as he tends not to explain the magical realism elements. Indeed, they are often impossible to explain and the genre rarely does. While I have heard this as a complaint about his writing, if you’re willing to accept things for what they are and allow yourself to be immersed in his works, I’m sure you’ll find something in them that will stay with you.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” email@example.com “, by all means contact me about anything!
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