Haruki Murakami’s Cool Japan
BY ROLAND KELTS
I was in New York last week to host a launch event for the English translation of Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.” My good friend and Murakami translator Ted Goossen, professor at York University in Toronto, joined me, as did pianist Eunbi Kim, whose multi-media project, “Murakami Music,” I saw performed at Symphony Space in Manhattan last year.
With all the talk of the Cool Japan campaign, it’s worth remembering that author Haruki Murakami reigns as the nation’s most potent global cultural export.
I wasn’t surprised to find the venue packed when I arrived. Kinokuniya bookstore’s New York branch in midtown comprises two floors and a basement. Events and readings are staged in the center of the ground floor. Audience members filled the seats and spilled into adjacent aisles, many of them peering over bookshelves.
I first met Murakami 15 years ago on a kind of bet. I was living in Osaka, where a group of editors from a now-defunct English-language magazine had commissioned me to contribute stories. They had invited me to one of their monthly meetings at a tachinomiya (standing bar) on a dark corner near the city’s business district. One of the editors had read my review of Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” a year earlier in an American newspaper.
“Think you could get an interview with him?” he asked, grinning and swaying a bit on his heels.
“I could try.”
“He’s a total recluse, you know. Won’t talk to anyone. If you get the interview, dinner’s on us.”
I realized the other editors were grinning, too, and one of them raised a glass to me.
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