This year’s Louisiana Literature Festival in Hemmelbeek, Denmark, drew such names as Joyce Carol Oates and Nobel Laureate Abdurrazak Guarna, but both had to stand in the shadow of one man: Haruki Murakami.
The 74-year-old Japanese is rarely seen in public, but he has been on the wish list of the Literature Festival since its inception in 2010. Once the organizers managed to convince Murakami to come to Denmark, he met the audience during the four days of the festival. Although visitors were forbidden to photograph him, he did not give any interviews.
“a completely normal person”
However, Murakami himself seems to find it surprising that people care about him.
– I’m a completely normal person when I’m not writing, he says.
Murakami made his international breakthrough in 1987 with the movie “Norwegian Wood” and has since become Japan’s biggest literary star in the world. It has been translated into about 50 languages and several of his books have been made into movies. For example, “Drive my car” won Best International Film at the 2022 Academy Awards.
Being a writer seems simple to Murakami, who made a humble and easygoing impression when interviewed onstage at the Sculpture Garden Friday night.
– I only write when I want to. I have never suffered from so-called writer’s cramp. He says life is simple and breaks out of one of his many fits of laughter during the evening.
His latest book—The City and Its Uncertain Walls—was released in Japan in April, his first novel in six years. He wrote it during the pandemic, confined behind the walls of his home.
It took me three years to write the book.
Published in Sweden in 2024
So far, it’s only available in Japanese, but the plan is to be published in Swedish next year, publisher Norstedts told TT.
– It’s a story about a man and his shadow. At some point they separated, Murakami says, explaining that it was a matter of the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
Sometimes you don’t know who is the man and who is the shadow. They switch roles.
Anything is possible in Murakami’s magical realism. A well or a staircase can temporarily transport the characters of a novel to another era or parallel universe.
He himself does not always know where the story is going during the work process.
– Every morning when I wake up I think: What will happen next in my story? So I get up at four because I’m so excited with anticipation.
It was only when Murakami was 29 that he realized he wanted to start writing. This realization came to him while at a baseball game in Tokyo with his favorite team, the Yakult Swallows.
– It was like an epiphany, as if something had fallen from heaven. I felt it was something important and started writing. That’s how she became a writer, says the 74-year-old.
At the time he ran a jazz club with his wife, Yoko, and his books contain many references to jazz and classical music, as well as to western pop and rock.
Everything I know about writing I learned from music.
It is about rhythm and melody in language. How everything coordinates. But the most important thing is improvisation, says Murakami, referring to jazz greats like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
– When I write, I feel like I’m playing a musical instrument. I don’t listen to music when I write, but the music is in my head.
To his wife’s chagrin, he has 13,000 vinyl records at home – he says 20 of them were bought in Stockholm.
– Stockholm is the best city if you’re a vinyl collector, but Copenhagen is fine, says Haruki Murakami, smiling.
Facts: Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami was born on January 12, 1949 in Kyoto, Japan. He was raised in Kobe and later moved to Tokyo, where he attended Waseda University. After college, he opened a jazz bar, which he ran with his wife for seven years.
Murakami made his debut as a writer with 1979’s Hear the Wind Sing and had his major international breakthrough with the novel Norwegian Wood in 1987. He has since written a series of international bestsellers, such as Kafka on the Shore (2002) ) and the “1Q84” trilogy (2009-2010).
In April, his first novel in six years—”The City and Its Uncertain Walls”—was published in Japan.
Many of Murakami’s books have been made into movies. Drive my car (2021), primarily based on the novel of the same title, directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, won Best International Film at the 2022 Academy Awards and is also nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
Sources: Norstedts, The New Yorker
Truth: Louisiana Literature
A star-studded literature festival in Danish Louisiana August 17-20. It has been organized annually – except for the pandemic years 2020 and 2021 – since 2010.
This year, the festival was visited by, for example, Haruki Murakami (Japan), Joyce Carol Oates (USA), Abdul Razak Journeh (Tanzania), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Hernan Diaz (Argentina), Tessa Hadley and Ian MacEwan (great. Britain).
Co-authors Karolina Ramqvist and Aya Genberg from Sweden.
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