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Haruki Murakami Edit Profile

writer

Background

Murakami was born in Japan during the post–World War II baby boom. Although born in Kyoto, he spent his youth in Shukugawa (Nishinomiya), Ashiya and Kobe. His father was the son of a Buddhist priest, and his mother the daughter of an Osaka merchant. Both taught Japanese literature.

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a wide range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. These Western influences often distinguish Murakami from other Japanese writers.

Murakami is a marathon runner and triathlete enthusiast, though he did not start running until he was 33 years old. On June 23, 1996, he completed his first ultramarathon, a 100-kilometer race around Lake Saroma in Hokkaido, Japan. He discusses his relationship with running in his 2008 memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Education

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko.

Career

His first job was at a record store, much like Toru Watanabe, the narrator of Norwegian Wood. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened a coffeehouse and jazz bar, the Peter Cat, in Kokubunji, Tokyo, which he ran with his wife from 1974 to 1981.

In 1985, Murakami wrote Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a dream-like fantasy that took the magical elements of his work to a new extreme. Murakami achieved a major breakthrough and national recognition in 1987 with the publication of Norwegian Wood, a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality. It sold millions of copies among Japanese youths, making Murakami a literary superstar in his native country. The book was printed in two separate volumes, sold together, so that the number of books sold actually doubled, creating the million-copy bestseller hype. One book had a green cover, the other one red. In 1986, Murakami left Japan, traveled throughout Europe, and settled in the United States. He was a writing fellow at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. During this time he wrote South of the Border, West of the Sun and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Murakami's initial success with Hear the Wind Sing encouraged him to continue writing. A year later, he published a sequel, Pinball, 1973. In 1982, he published A Wild Sheep Chase, a critical success. Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase form the Trilogy of the Rat (a sequel, Dance, Dance, Dance, was written later but is not considered part of the series), centered on the same unnamed narrator and his friend, "the Rat." The first two novels are unpublished in English translation outside of Japan, where an English edition, translated by Alfred Birnbaum with extensive notes, was published by Kodansha as part of a series intended for Japanese students of English. Murakami considers his first two novels to be "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. A Wild Sheep Chase, he says, was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Achievements

  • Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini's opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells' song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles' song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (after the song "South of the Border").

    Murakami's first novel Hear the Wind Sing (Kaze no uta o kike) was adapted by Japanese director Kazuki Ōmori. The film was released in 1981 and distributed by Art Theatre Guild. Naoto Yamakawa directed two short films Attack on the Bakery (released in 1982) and A Girl, She is 100 Percent (released in 1983), based on Murakami's short stories "The Second Bakery Attack" and "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" respectively. Japanese director Jun Ichikawa adapted Murakami's short story "Tony Takitani" into a 75-minute feature. The film played at various film festivals and was released in New York and Los Angeles on July 29, 2005. The original short story, translated into English by Jay Rubin, is available in the April 15, 2002 issue of The New Yorker, as a stand-alone book published by Cloverfield Press, and part of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Knopf. In 1998, the German film Der Eisbaer (Polar Bear), written and directed by Granz Henman, used elements of Murakami's short story "The Second Bakery Attack" in three intersecting story lines.

    Murakami's work was also adapted for the stage in a 2003 play entitled The Elephant Vanishes, co-produced by Britain's Complicite company and Japan's Setagaya Public Theatre. The production, directed by Simon McBurney, adapted three of Murakami's short stories and received acclaim for its unique blending of multimedia (video, music, and innovative sound design) with actor-driven physical theater (mime, dance, and even acrobatic wire work). On tour, the play was performed in Japanese, with supertitle translations for European and American audiences.

    Two stories from Murakami's book after the quake—"Honey Pie" and "Superfrog Saves Tokyo"—have been adapted for the stage and directed by Frank Galati. Entitled after the quake, the play was first performed at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in association with La Jolla Playhouse, and opened on October 12, 2007 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. In 2008, Galati also adapted and directed a theatrical version of Kafka on the Shore, which first ran at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater from September to November.

  • On Max Richter's 2006 album Songs from Before, Robert Wyatt reads passages from Murakami's novels. In 2007, Robert Logevall adapted "All God's Children Can Dance" into a film, with a soundtrack composed by American jam band Sound Tribe Sector 9. In 2008, Tom Flint adapted "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" into a short film. The film was screened at the 2008 CON-CAN Movie Festival. The film was viewed, voted, and commented upon as part of the audience award for the movie festival.



    It was announced in July 2008 that French-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung would direct an adaptation of Murakami's novel, Norwegian Wood. The film was released in Japan on December 11, 2010.

    In 2010, Stephen Earnhart adapted The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle into a 2 hour multimedia stage presentation. The show opened January 12, 2010 as part of the Public Theater's "Under the Radar" festival at the Ohio Theater, presented in association with The Asia Society and the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The show had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival on August 21, 2011. The presentation incorporates live actors, video projection, traditional Japanese puppetry, and immersive soundscapes to render the surreal landscape of the original work.



    Each short story in Murakami's after the quake collection was adapted into a six-song EP entitled .DC: JPN (after the quake 2011) in March 2011 following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami to help benefit the relief efforts by musician Dre Carlan.

Interests

  • Writers

    American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan

  • Other Interests

    Western Literature

  • Music & Bands

    Western Music