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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Popular Modern Japanese Writer: Haruki Murakami
By:Michael Russell

The most popular modern Japanese writer throughout the entire world is likely Haruki Murakami. His works have been translated into 38 different languages and are often described as being very accessible to readers while still having a profoundness in them that isn't as simple to see.

Haruki Murakami was born in 1949 in Kyoto. His mother and father both taught Japanese literature and he spent most of his childhood in Kobe. As a child, Murakami was more influenced by Western culture than by the literature his parents taught. He was always interested in Western music and grew up reading Dostoyevsky, Balzac and Vonnegut instead of classic Japanese literature. Critics believe that the reason Murakami is separated from the rest of Japanese writers is because of this Western influence seen in his style, which is more freeform than most Japanese writers' styles. His novels tend to have musical themes in them as well. For example, his novel "Norwegian Wood" is named after a song from "Rubber Soul" by the Beatles.

Murakami met his wife, Yoko, at Waseda University in Tokyo where he had studied drama. He first started working in a record store, which is where one of his characters worked in one of his novels. After graduating, he opened up his own jazz bar in Tokyo called "Peter Cat". This bar lasted 8 years, from 1974 to 1982. Later on in life Murakami also worked at Tufts University, where he taught literature.

Murakami wrote his first novel in 1979, 30 years after he was born. While watching a baseball game on television, he suddenly became inspired to write a novel: "Hear the Wind Sing". Although it was translated into English, it has not been released outside of Japan because Murakami thinks that the novel is too fragmented and not up to quality. However, just after writing it he sent it into a contest and won first prize for it. Since this first novel, Murakami has had his own unique style and humor. He also likes to play around with nostalgia, which is seen in many of his works.

"Hear the Wind Sing" later turned out to be the first book of three, in a trilogy that included the same characters. "Pinball, 1973" was written due to the success of his first novel, which was then followed by "A Wild Sheep Chase". Although "A Wild Sheep Chase" has made it onto American shores, "Pinball, 1973" has suffered from the same fate as "Hear the Wind Sing". Murakami continued writing and then released "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" in 1985. It wasn't until 1987, however, that he became truly popular when he gained national praise for "Norwegian Wood".

Murakami continues writing and all of his books are considered to be very good by critics from all around the world. Murakami has also translated some of his favorite Western novels into Japanese, including "Catcher in the Rye". Recently his short story "Tony Takitani" was also turned into a film directed by Jun Ichikawa. His next novel, "After Dark", which has already been released in Japan, is planned to be released in English in 2007.

Michael Russell

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