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Author Study: Haruki Murakami Curated by Ashley Tang '19

This Libguide provides a detailed analysis of Japanese author Haruki Murakami and delves into his writing accomplishments.

Critical Reception

Due to his early influence of American pop culture, Murakami had a unique writing style that contained themes not associated with the normal Japanese writing style, earning him more attention from foreign readers.Murakami avoids writing about his political stances in his writings, and refers to American culture frequently throughout his books. His perceived lack of a political and intellectual stance irritated well known Japanese authors such as Kenzaburo Oe and Kazuo Ishiguro. Japanese literature always contains self confessions, something that Murakami lacked in his writing.

“I’m a kind of outcast of the Japanese literary world. I have my own readers… But critics, writers, many of them don’t like me.”

“I think, in a sense, we are playing different games… It’s very similar but the rules are different. The equipment’s different, and the field’s are different”

“Murakami writes in Japanese, but his writing isn’t really Japanese… it can be read very naturally in New York” - Kenzaburo Oe

Protagonist

A very quintessential Murakami protagonist has the following traits: alienated, often single, male, youngish, likes jazz/classical music, disaffected, and narcissistic. The repetition of this same type of character caused an outcry amongst readers and critics alike, as they believed that Murakami was "throwing characters in from every angle without any particular reason".​

Female Characters

Murakami uses side characters as "stepping stones" for the protagonist to figure out something about themselves. Less as autonomous three dimensional characters, these side characters are mainly female and are depicted as "fragile" who are inaccessible to the readers. Their actions are only interpreted through the protagonist's eyes and their problems are usually left unanswered throughout the book.

Western Reception and Marketing

Murakami has become a famous international author due to the references to American pop culture.  By removing elements in the book that seem “too Japanese”, Murakami is indirectly showing that what succeeds in the West is something that can’t be “too foreign”.

As a result of the above, many critics believe that Murakami lacks in finesse. However, it is compensated by the brilliance of his various literary forms in one book, and his unique blend of both Western and Eastern writing styles, allowing him to "Embody a vision no American novelist could have invented”.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

"It is surreal and psychedelic. It is mysterious, something out of this world. You just need to stop questioning things and let yourself get carried away."

"'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' is an experience so fulfilling, so gosh-darn incredible that I felt like I was melting into the background with zen-like precision, like our main man. A true treasure of the avant-garde! Murakami's best novel."

Kafka On The Shore

"Murakami manages to orchestrate a veritable dance of imagery with his bizarro story-lines, and he is pretty insightful on the subject of dark emotional landscapes in his stilted, very Japanese way."

"You read, you feel, you try to understand, you try to make sense. And you know what? You love it."

Norwegian Wood

"The prose is sensual, even voluptuous: descriptions of landscapes and weather are done in long and loving detail. There is very little exploration of inner mental states, other than as broad description of emotions, even though we are listening to only one voice throughout the book. It is rather like stream of consciousness turned outward."