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Haruki Murakami
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message 1: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) While debate is possible, it's hard to argue against the idea that Haruki Murakami has been one of the most influenical authors of the past two decades, with books like 1Q84, a recent group read, and Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, considered by many to be a modern classic.

This thread will serve as a resource on the author, his work, news related to him, and discussion. Posts with interesting or relevant info will be incorporated into this first post.

wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haruki_M...

his official site, complete with appropriate music: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/m...

Exorcising Ghosts, a resource site: http://www.exorcising-ghosts.co.uk/

A fairly complete looking fansite: http://www.haruki-murakami.com/

an even more complete resource: http://www.murakami.ch/main_6.html


message 2: by Mikela (new)

Mikela Terrific websites that provide great insight into one of my favourite authors. Thanks, Will.


message 3: by James E. (new)

James E. Martin | 77 comments I was interested in the way Murakami interpolates several types of stories in Wind-Up Bird. In fact, if we consider the WWII tales, the dreams, the hallucinations, psychics' stories, we can see that interpolation is the novel's main narrative device. He excels at using it.


message 4: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Has anyone else thought that the translator makes an impact on reading Murakami? I felt that the prose in Kafka on the Shore (Trans: Philip Gabriel) was markedly inferior to that in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood (Trans: Jay Rubin). Did anyone else notice this?

IQ84 (which I've not read yet) is translated partly by Rubin (parts one and two), and partly by Gabriel (part three). I wonder did anyone notice the difference?


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Terry, in my opinion the translator always makes an impact on the work, always. “The translator is a traitor,” the Italians say. Or, from a French writer: “Translations are like women. If they are beautiful, they are not faithful; if they are faithful, they are not beautiful.”

I think it's crucial to note the translator, note the differences in style, and be aware of such things when approaching a new book/translation.

Sorry, that was not answering any of your questions. The translation thing is just a hot spot for me.


message 6: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce No, that's spot on topic, Rebecca... I have very little experience of any author with more than one translator, so your input is helpful.


message 7: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) I didn't notice a difference, but I've only read 1Q84.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

There's a great review on Amazon talking about different translations of Don Quixote (read the comments too, esp. by Rock Sedan) that I think nails the types of problems which come up in translation and which readers often blithely ignore. Check it out if the topic interests you:

http://www.amazon.com/review/RDHI2GR5...


message 9: by Franky (new)

Franky | 110 comments Currently reading his novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and have to say that I'm immensely enjoying it, and love its style.
I've heard many comparisons with the author to Kafka as well, with this book and some of his others. He has a very imaginative voice in his books, it seems. Definitely interested in checking out some of his other works.


message 10: by Whitney (last edited Apr 14, 2013 09:00PM) (new)

Whitney | 2157 comments Mod
Rebecca wrote: "... Or, from a French writer: If they are beautiful, they are not faithful; if they are faithful, they are not beautiful. ..."

I love this quote!

I didn't notice any glaring differences between the first two parts and the last part of 1Q84, but I wasn't really looking for them. In an interview, Gabriel said that he made an effort to match Rubin's style to some extent since Rubin had already translated the first part, and also that the editor smoothed out the different translations to make them better match as well.

I also tend to prefer Rubin's translations, but no Murakami translations have ever struck me as clunky.


message 11: by James E. (new)

James E. Martin | 77 comments I just finished 1Q84 and frankly felt disappointed, esp. after having read Wind Up Bird, which I thought was much better. Murakami has a gift of dealing with certain themes, like consciousness, mystical communication, blurring of reality/hallucination, and sometimes he hits home, while at other times he misses. I do find him a very compelling writer in general.


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 15 comments He hooked me with the Kamel in the elevator.^^


message 13: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2353 comments Terry wrote: "Has anyone else thought that the translator makes an impact on reading Murakami? I felt that the prose in Kafka on the Shore (Trans: Philip Gabriel) was markedly inferior to that in The Wind-up Bir..."

I listened to the audiobook of IQ84 and at the end there is an interview with both translators. For me, it was fascinating to hear these two translators discuss the role of translator and how they work.


message 14: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Yes, I too found these conversations very interesting. The translator can - and does - make all the difference.


message 15: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Update: Having read it, I'd now place IQ84 in the same box as Kafka on the Shore, i.e. just not written in quite the same style as earlier work such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood. For me:

WUBC, NW: Lyrical, Japanese-feeling, not too heavy with explanations of things, non-repetitive, require the reader to do some work

KOTS, WUBC: Straightforward, Western-feeling, heavy on explanations, repetitive, spoon-feed the reader to some extent

In a discussion on another thread, Whitney to some extent agreed on this.

I had blamed Gabriel as he translated KOTS, but as both Gabriel and Rubin translated IQ84 (and in fact, Rubin took the lead), I'm more starting to believe that a decision has been taken at some level about how Murakami is to be translated for the market in question. Does this sound plausible to anyone else? I'm just stumped as to why the later stuff feels so different. The ideas and events and themes are the same, but the prose feels like a different [inferior, imo] writer.


message 16: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Interesting. I didn't notice much difference between 1/2/3 myself. I've read Dance Dance Dance and thought it was closer to the style of NW and AWUBC.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Terry wrote: "Update: Having read it, I'd now place IQ84 in the same box as Kafka on the Shore, i.e. just not written in quite the same style as earlier work such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood..."

I agree. After reading Kafka on the Shore, I wish I had read it prior to 1Q84, almost as if it would have helped me make sense of the later novel.


message 18: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 89 comments http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/feat... free to read online story in the new yorker might be of interest to some fans.


message 19: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Meric, your comment starts with a quote from Will's comment at the top of this topic, and then changes to something else, which I suspect is a comment/question from you. Since the quotation marks never close and everything is in italics, I'm guessing to some extent.

I really liked 1Q84. I was not really bothered by unanswered questions, because it seemed to me that the author wanted readers to think and draw their own conclusions, and there were plenty of clues to think about. The only other Murakami I have read is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and I do think it was a little more tightly structured. As with 1Q84, though, the "answers" were sometimes in a completely different part of the book than the "questions," and you have to think carefully about the book as a whole to put it all together. I joined this group after the group read 1Q84, but I read both 1Q84 and TWUBC for discussions by another Goodreads group, Brain Pain, and I found their discussions very helpful. You should probably check out the Brain Pain group. While this group (21st Century) reads only books written since 2000, Brain Pain reads books from all periods, and the books are selected by the moderator before the beginning of a calendar year to fit together into themes and/or show progressions and development in particular types of literature.


message 20: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 197 comments I thought Wind-up Bird was more incomprehensible than 1Q84. I have also read Kafka on the Shore. 1Q84 was my favorite. Murakami likes to be weird and mysterious I think. If that bothers you, he is probably not an author for you.


message 21: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce The incomprehensibly of neither bothered me, but I find it hard to express how much more I enjoyed TWUBC than IQ84.

To me, the prose in the former was beautiful. In the latter, workmanlike. The characters in the former, strange and alluring and captivating. In the latter, strangely thin. The ideas in the former, enervating and impressive. In the latter, confused.

I realise many differ. But if you are disinclined to read more Murakami after IQ84, I'd recommend trying TWUBC before giving up on him. If I'd started with IQ84, I might never have read any more, and then I'd have missed out on the sheer delight of WUBC.

Don't try Kafka on the Shore: it's far more similar to IQ84.


message 22: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Terry, you and I seem to have had opposite reactions. I started with 1Q84 and loved it, but I found WUBC less to my taste. I think personal taste is an important factor in how people react to Murakami. I also agree with Julie that Murakami "likes to be weird and mysterious" and that "If that bothers you, he is probably not an author for you."


message 23: by Lily (last edited Jul 24, 2014 11:31AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Terry wrote: "...Don't try Kafka on the Shore: it's far more similar to IQ84. ..."

Terry -- I'm smiling. My choices would be the opposite of yours! I also liked Norwegian Wood, which is quite different. I felt that I didn't know enough Chinese-Japanese history to get as much as would have liked from TWUBC. (I understand that a pretty good commentary is available. May try that sometime with a reread. I do think the book is worth a reread.)

For me, Murakami touches some topics with some uniquely insightful takes on modern women.


message 24: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce We can agree on Norwegian Wood. His second best in my view, of those I've read.


message 25: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Indeed I suppose I started the thread way back when, and thank you for correcting the attribution, as I have greatly enjoyed all his books I've read thus far.

Meric, as for unanswered questions, I suspect Murakami or indeed any of the magical realists will be a risky choice if closure is required. In 1Q84 there definitely is a deliberate stylistic nod to Proust. As is usual with Murakami, he directly references his references, as it were. From the NYRB review (Dec 8, 2011 - note, this quote itself contains a quote from the book)

Early in Haruki Murakami’s new novel, a character describes to an editor at a Japanese publishing house a manuscript of a novel that has come to his attention, and what he says sounds like a preview of the book we are about to read:

You could pick it apart completely if you wanted to. But the story itself has real power: it draws you in. The overall plot is a fantasy, but the descriptive detail is incredibly real. The balance between the two is excellent. I don’t know if words like “originality” or “inevitability” fit here, and I suppose I might agree if someone insisted it’s not at that level, but finally, after you work your way through the thing, with all its faults, it leaves a real impression—it gets to you in some strange, inexplicable way that may be a little disturbing.


Without consulting the thread from this group, I recall (I think I lead the discussion?) many readers having a hard time accepting the use of repetition, which more astute and experienced readers than I informed us that it's a common technique in modern Asian -- and specifically Japanese -- literature.

So if you dislike loose ends, ambiguity, repetition, and the like, you'd probably best avoid Murakami. But you'd probably also avoid any of the magical realists, including but not limited to Bolaño, Borges, and a number of writers I'd personally be sad to see anybody pass up. Probably Proust as well.

I think that in all forms of art, it's best to not only keep an open mind, but to be open to revisiting your opinions, re-challenging your tastes, and revitalizing your interests. I personally feel that Ulysses is the best book I've ever read (and possibly the best English language novel) but if you'd asked me two years before I read it I would have told you I had no interest in reading it and never would. If I had stuck to my guns, I would have been publicly consistent, but have missed out on something which gave me a great deal of pleasure.

Mileage varies by user, and the nice thing about a book is that you can always close the cover, and it waits for you patiently.


message 26: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2157 comments Mod
I agree with Murakami not being for those who don't care for loose ends and ambiguity. But I'll add that Kafka on the Shore is probably Murakami's most ambiguous and loose-ended book. It's not the one I would recommend as a first exposure to Murakami.


message 27: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 58 comments So, which of Murakami's books would you recommend as a first read?

Thanks for your input.


message 28: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments This group often reads books that deliberately leave loose ends or even great honking holes (recent examples include The Islanders, Invisible, Gods Without Men, A Tale for the Time Being and The Flamethrowers). It's a technique. I'm beginning to feel it might be a bit overused these days.

I think I'd recommend Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World as a place to start with Haruki Murakami. It's weird, but reasonably complete.


message 29: by Franky (new)

Franky | 110 comments I've read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, both which I loved. I think Hard Boiled might be a good way to start.

I'm trying to think of what might be a good one to go into next.


message 30: by Kristina (new)

Kristina (kristina3880) Murakami is coming out with a new book in August Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

I was introduced to Murakami by reading 1Q84 last year. This year I read Kafka on the Shore and decided that I need to read all of his books. My goal is to read one Murakami book every year....... I might have to make an exception and check this one out.


message 31: by John (new)

John (johnred) I started with 1Q84 last year and have read 3 more Murakamis since then. Getting ready to read my 5th, After Dark :)

I agree that Hard-boiled Wonderland is a good place to start if you want to go easy on the symbolism and open-endedness...however I did not enjoy that one as much because I found the characters kind of flat. I'm pretty sure that was intentional on the author's part, but still it made it hard for me to feel engaged with the story.


message 32: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce After Dark is very good. More contained, less crazy than many, but still very much him.


message 33: by Franky (new)

Franky | 110 comments I like all the recommendations. Thanks!


message 34: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments This is the article that introduced me to Murakami:

http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t...

Ilana's enthusiasm is infectious.

Ilana Simons


message 35: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce Interesting article on Murakami. I found it thought-provoking in that I found many of the reasons why Murakami's more recent style is venerated here are the exact same reasons I dislike it. Takes the easy option of being sniffy about MFAs, but I that's de rigeur now. Might have to check out Tim Parks, as I kind of agree with him here, although I'd wondered if it was more the translators than the author.

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/06/murak...


message 36: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Terry wrote: "Interesting article on Murakami. I found it thought-provoking in that I found many of the reasons why Murakami's more recent style is venerated here are the exact same reasons I dislike it. Takes t..."

Thanks for the link, Terry; I especially liked this section from the end:

"Murakami realizes that the night bird of the human heart is filled with so much mystery that you really don’t need to drum up more of it with allusions and indirection. You can speak as clearly as possible about what we feel — and Murakami’s characters tend to be as forthright as their creator — and still never get to the bottom, never exhaust the unknowable that lives inside all of us."


message 37: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce See, I have issues with the article, and the passage you quote shows all of them to some extent. I found it interesting because it illuminated a viewpoint with which I don't entirely agree [particularly as it pertains to Murakami].

First, I think there's an arrogance and a dismissiveness here I don't like, in the title, and typified by 'you really don't need to drum up more [mystery] with allusions and indirection', like she's dismissing a whole literary tradition with one wave of her hand. She downgrades, throughout, the validity of any style other than the 'direct, unvarnished' one she favours. That wipes out a whole chunk of the best literature out there.

I also think there are far better examples out there of people who let an unvarnished style facilitate easy understanding of who's doing and feeling what, while bringing things off the page. John Edward Williams. Donna Tartt. Colum McCann. Barbara Kingsolver.

Her dismissiveness of Parks' criticism is tortured. Her evidence that Murakami doesn't crowd-please is circular -- she says, effectively, that the reason it's not true that Murakami's simple writing evinces an interest in international crowd-pleasing, is because he writes simply. But that's Parks' whole argument. His article is here:

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/...

And while I wouldn't agree with him on every point, he puts well what I've been thinking about Murakami's later stuff [I actually don't think he's attacking Murakami as specifically and directly as she makes out, but his general argument seems to apply more to Murakami than anyone I can think of, certainly more than the other authors he mentions].

Earlier work like TWUBC, Norwegian Wood, Dance Dance Dance and After Dark seemed to have far more cultural artifacts [both literally and in prose terms] than Kafka on the Shore and IQ84. Parks' argument about language and references being reduced to a sort of lowest global denominator seems to express very well what I've been thinking about these two books, at least.

I don't know if that [if true] is deliberate on Murakami's part, unconscious, just his artistic development, or some outgrowth of his work with translators. And I'm sure others will disagree. But for me, Parks' provocative quotation of Borges has a ring of truth: most people rely on criteria other than the aesthetic to judge the works they read. I'd be a little less militant about it -- I don't at all say those who like Murakami's newer stuff have no aesthetic sense -- but I do wonder if his imagination gets him through some doors that his prose alone would find slammed shut.


message 38: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) I can't understand all the attention the debate gets, honestly. But if his prose were really far short of his imagination, he would be a genre sci-fi author, and likely there wouldn't be a debate. We don't like to discuss it publicly much, I know, but being one of those who set up the standards this group employs, that's what what we mean, isn't it? For me, there's a large number of authors working today which groups such as this accept as fine artists with little question whom I feel lack the writing skills to do service to their ideas. Others can write so well that it really doesn't matter what or how pedestrian their ideas are, the prose burnishes even crude organic matter to a metallic shine (IMO I'd use Coetzee as an example of this)

What puzzles me is why there is so much written on Murakami's relative value, why the possibility of there being some bothers some, while the trolling of his detractors, hardly uncommon in the internet age, gets the hackles of his fans up so easily. I'll still love reading his softly paced and gently, darkly, measured prose.


message 39: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce I think the amount written probably pertains to the amount of clamour for greater literary recognition for him. If everybody said 'I just enjoy him', there would likely be less debate, but it seems now that it's been decided by some that a Nobel prize is a question of if not when for him, and there are others who disagree.

Myself, I'm always happy to live and let live, but my personal knot to untangle here is that I loved Murakami as was, and I feel he's changed in style, for much the worse. However, I appreciate discussion and debate and comment around this to explore this perception and how others see him/this change [or not]. I don't think anybody's saying no-one should be allowed to enjoy him, or that he's objectively poor [or indeed the reverse].

Personally, I found this element of the debate [Miller/Parks] quite informative and illuminating, and something worth exploring both in terms of Murakami and in how it frames wider trends and issues, wherever you fall in terms of opinion on the matter.


message 40: by Nutmegger (new)

Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments The first Murakami that I read was TWUBC and I was completely enthralled. That was a number of years ago and I regret that I was unaware of this group at the time. 1Q84 has been sitting on a shelf and hopefully I'll get into it and possibly get some feedback from some of you as I read.


message 41: by Lacewing (new)

Lacewing A funny thing happened on the way to the book store. I was scoping out TWUBC, making sure I really wanted to read it. Wikipedia (don't laugh; it has it's good points) had a list of characters. And note the correspondence with Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.

a strange bird, a lost cat, dad not working, teen girl avoiding school, nuclear catastrophe, mystical woman, and maybe there are other correspondences. Note especially that Ozeki has not one but two characters named Haruki.

Ha! Fan fiction!


message 42: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Lacewing wrote: "Ha! Fan fiction! ..."

Dare I ask? Of who for whom?


message 43: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Murakami's first two novels (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973), long nearly unavailable in English (copies were available, but only at absurd prices), as been reissued as a single volume, Wind/Pinball: Two Early Novels, in a new translation by Ted Goossen (the original editions were translated by Alfred Birnbaum).

I, for one am pleased to have these available.


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