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

Some of you may won­der what inspires such devo­tion among the fans of Haru­ki Muraka­mi, the world’s most inter­na­tion­al­ly pop­u­lar nov­el­ist. The rest of you — well, you’ll prob­a­bly already know that today is the man’s birth­day. Whichev­er group you fall into, you might like to use the day as an excuse to either deep­en your Muraka­mi fan­dom, or to final­ly have a look across his sin­gu­lar lit­er­ary land­scape, made up of books like A Wild Sheep ChaseNor­we­gian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle, and 1Q84, with its prose at once style­less and ultra-dis­tinc­tive, its scope of ref­er­ence Japan­ese and glob­al, and the mate­r­i­al of its sto­ries thor­ough­ly strange as well as mun­dane.

Haru­ki Muraka­mi: In Search of this Elu­sive Writer, the BBC doc­u­men­tary at the top of the post, pro­vides a fine intro­duc­tion to Muraka­mi, his work, and the fans who love it. For a short­er and more impres­sion­is­tic glance into the author’s biog­ra­phy (in which the young Muraka­mi famous­ly trans­formed from a jazz bar own­er to a nov­el­ist by watch­ing a home run at a base­ball game), see psy­chol­o­gist, writer, and film­mak­er Ilana Simons’ video “About Haru­ki Muraka­mi” just above. But soon, you’ll want to have the expe­ri­ence with­out which nobody can real­ly grasp the Muraka­mi appeal: read­ing his work. The New York­er offers six of his sto­ries in their archive, read­able even by non-sub­scribers (as long as they haven’t hit their six-arti­cle-per-month pay­wall yet).

If you haven’t read any Muraka­mi before, those sto­ries may well start to give you a sense of why his fans (a group that includes no small num­ber of oth­er artists, like Pat­ti Smith) go so deep into his work. What do I mean by going deep? Not just read­ing his books over and over again — though they, or rather we, do indeed do that — but gath­er­ing togeth­er in a par­tic­u­lar Tokyo jazz cafe (we’ve even got a Muraka­mi-themed book cafe here in Seoul, where I live), putting togeth­er playlists of not just the jazz but all the oth­er music ref­er­enced in his books, writ­ing in to his advice col­umn by the thou­sands, and even doc­u­ment­ing the loca­tions in Tokyo impor­tant in both his fic­tion and his real life.


Some­how, Murakami’s high­ly per­son­al work has won not just the some­times obses­sive love of its read­ers, but world­wide com­mer­cial suc­cess as well: the pub­li­ca­tion of each new nov­el comes as a near­ly hol­i­day-like event, brands like J. Press have com­mis­sioned sto­ries from him, and over in Poland they stock his books in vend­ing machines. It gets even those who don’t con­nect with his writ­ing deeply curi­ous: how does he do it? The mod­est Muraka­mi, while not espe­cial­ly giv­en to pub­lic appear­ances (though he did once give an Eng­lish-lan­guage read­ing at the 92nd Street Y), has in recent years shown more will­ing­ness to dis­cuss his process. What does it take to be like Muraka­mi? He con­sid­ers three qual­i­ties essen­tial to the work of the nov­el­ist (or to run­ning, which he took up not long after turn­ing nov­el­ist): tal­ent, focus, and endurance.

As far as the writ­ing itself, he puts it sim­ply: “I sit at my desk and focus total­ly on what I’m writ­ing. I don’t see any­thing else, I don’t think about any­thing else.” Many of his enthu­si­asts would say the same about their expe­ri­ence of read­ing his books. If all this has piqued your inter­est, don’t hes­i­tate to plunge down the well of Murakami’s real­i­ty, where, on the vin­tage jazz-sound­tracked streets, at the train sta­tions, and down the secret pas­sage­ways of Tokyo by night, you’ll meet talk­ing cats, pre­co­cious teenagers, and mys­te­ri­ous women (and their ears), dis­cov­er par­al­lel worlds — and ulti­mate­ly become quite good at Muraka­mi bin­go.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 6 Sto­ries By Haru­ki Muraka­mi Free Online

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

Dis­cov­er Haru­ki Murakami’s Adver­to­r­i­al Short Sto­ries: Rare Short-Short Fic­tion from the 1980s

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Pub­lish­es His Answers to 3,700 Ques­tions from Fans in a New Japan­ese eBook

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

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

Read Online Haru­ki Murakami’s New Essay on How a Base­ball Game Launched His Writ­ing Career

A 56-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Ray Charles, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

A Dream­i­ly Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Japan’s Jazz and Base­ball-Lov­ing Post­mod­ern Nov­el­ist

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

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

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Nov­els Sold in Pol­ish Vend­ing Machines

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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