In Search of Haruki Murakami: A Documentary Introduction to Japan’s Great Postmodernist Novelist

Haru­ki Muraka­mi holds the titles of both the most pop­u­lar nov­el­ist in Japan and the most pop­u­lar Japan­ese nov­el­ist in the wider world. After pub­lish­ing Nor­we­gian Wood in 1987, a book often called “the Japan­ese Catch­er in the Rye,” Murakami’s noto­ri­ety explod­ed to such an extent that he felt forced out of his home­land, a coun­try whose tra­di­tion­al ways and — to his mind — con­formist mind­set nev­er sat right with him in the first place. Though he returned to Japan in the after­math of the Kobe earth­quake and the Tokyo under­ground gas attacks, he remained an author shaped by his favorite for­eign cul­tures — espe­cial­ly Amer­i­ca’s. This, com­bined with his yearn­ing to break from estab­lished Japan­ese lit­er­ary norms, has gen­er­at­ed enough inter­na­tion­al demand for his work to sell briskly in almost every lan­guage in which peo­ple read nov­els.

I myself once spent a month doing noth­ing but read­ing Murakami’s work, and this BBC doc­u­men­tary Haru­ki Muraka­mi: In Search of this Elu­sive Writer makes a valiant attempt to cap­ture what about it could raise such a com­pul­sion. Rupert Edwards’ cam­era fol­lows vet­er­an pre­sen­ter Alan Yen­tob through Japan, from the mid­night Tokyo of After Hours to the snowed-in Hokkai­do of A Wild Sheep Chase, in a quest to find arti­facts of the supreme­ly famous yet media-shy novelist’s imag­i­nary world. Built around inter­views with fans and trans­la­tors but thick with such Murakami­ana as laid-back jazz stan­dards, grim school hall­ways, six­ties pop hits, women’s ears, vinyl records, marathon run­ners, and talk­ing cats, the broad­cast strives less to explain Murakami’s sub­stance than to sim­ply reflect it. If you find your curios­i­ty piqued by all the fuss over 1Q84, Murakami’s lat­est, you might watch it as some­thing of an aes­thet­ic primer.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Intro­duc­tion to the World of Haru­ki Muraka­mi Through Doc­u­men­taries, Sto­ries, Ani­ma­tion, Music Playlists & More

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

Read 5 Sto­ries By Haru­ki Muraka­mi Free Online (For a Lim­it­ed Time)

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (6) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (6)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • It’s a great doc­u­men­tary, is like revive de book on my pc. Con­grats!

  • Shu says:

    Won­der­ful post, thank you very much!
    Is it pos­si­ble to change “Japan­ese The Catch­er In the Rye” to “a great nov­el about youth” or some­thing like that. ” Nor­we­gian Wood ” is a deeply warm nov­el VS.Catcher in the Rye is dark­ly satir­i­cal. Just don’t like those kind of label­ing. Great works deserve inde­pen­dent recog­ni­tions.

  • old911guy says:

    My daugh­ter rec­om­mend­ed “Kaf­ka on the Shore”. What a strange sur­re­al book. I loved it.

  • Yayai says:

    Agree with Shu: Nor­we­gian Wood has noth­ing to do with The Catch­er in the Rye! Well, yes, they both have a male main char­ac­ter, but that’s pret­ty much it.

  • Faustina Lin says:

    1Q84 is not his lat­est, as for nov­el, “Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age” is his lat­est, please up-date your arti­cle.

  • Daniel says:

    An enjoy­able doc­u­men­tary on Muraka­mi. Almost seems like his writ­ing helped his Japan­ese fans change how they inter­act in soci­ety. Now I’m curi­ous as to which of his books to start with?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.