Haruki Murakami Reads in English from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in a Rare Public Reading (1998)

Murakami 92Y

Note: It looks like the 92nd St Y took the read­ing off of its Youtube chan­nel for unknown rea­sons. How­ev­er you can stream it here.

Haru­ki Muraka­mi does­n’t make many pub­lic appear­ances, but when he does, his fans savor them. This record­ing of a read­ing he gave at New York’s 92nd Street Y back in 1998 (stream it here) counts as a trea­sured piece of mate­r­i­al among Eng­lish-speak­ing Murakamists, espe­cial­ly those who love his eighth nov­el, The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle. When asked to read from that book, the author explains here, he usu­al­ly reads from chap­ter one, “but I’m tired of read­ing the same thing over and over, so I’m going to read chap­ter three today.” And that’s what he does after giv­ing some back­ground on the book, its 29-year-old pro­tag­o­nist Toru Oka­da, and his own thoughts on how it feels to be 29.

The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle, pub­lished in three parts in Japan in 1994 and 1995 and in its entire­ty in Eng­lish in 1997, began a new chap­ter in the writer’s career. You could tell by its size alone: the page count rose to 600 in the Eng­lish-lan­guage edi­tion, where­as none of his pre­vi­ous nov­els had clocked in above 400. The­mat­i­cal­ly, too, Murakami’s mis­sion had clear­ly broad­ened: where its pre­de­ces­sors con­cern them­selves pri­mar­i­ly with West­ern pop cul­ture, dis­ap­pear­ing girls, twen­tysome­thing lan­guor, and mys­te­ri­ous ani­mal-men, The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle takes on Japan­ese his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly the coun­try’s ill-advised wartime colo­nial ven­ture in Manchuria.

As a result, the book final­ly earned Muraka­mi some respect — albeit respect he’d nev­er direct­ly sought — from his home­land’s long-dis­dain­ful lit­er­ary estab­lish­ment. Despite hav­ing held its place since the time of this read­ing as Murakami’s “impor­tant” book, and one many read­ers name as their favorite, it might not offer the eas­i­est point of entry into his work. When I asked Wang Chung lead singer Jack Hues about a Muraka­mi ref­er­ence in the band’s song “City of Light,” he told me he put it there after read­ing The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle on his daugh­ter’s rec­om­men­da­tion and not lik­ing it very much. I sug­gest­ed he try Nor­we­gian Wood instead.

Note: You can down­load a com­plete audio ver­sion of The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle if you take part in one of the free tri­als offered by our part­ners Audible.com and/or Audiobooks.com. Click on the respec­tive links to get more infor­ma­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Lists the Three Essen­tial Qual­i­ties For All Seri­ous Nov­el­ists (And Run­ners)

Pat­ti Smith Reviews Haru­ki Murakami’s New Nov­el, Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

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

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

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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