Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Surfacing with Strength: Haruki Murakami at 60--1Q84

My latest column for the folks at Trannet Japan -- a riff on Haruki's latest, the boffo bestseller in Japan, 1Q84 --with some choice interview comments from various chats with him in recent months.
Some here in Japan are unhesitatingly calling 1Q84 his masterwork:

Roland Kelts VOL.16:

Surfacing with Strength: Haruki Murakami at 60

by Roland Kelts

"My idol is Dostoyevsky,” Haruki Murakami told me one evening late last year. “Most writers get weaker and weaker as they age. But Dostoyevsky didn't. He kept getting bigger and greater. He wrote The Brothers Karamazov in his late 50s. That's a great novel.”

Earlier this year, Murakami turned sixty. In recent, casual conversations with him in the US and Japan, I learned that this milestone was very much on his mind. “I’m going to be sixty, you know,” he would often begin. Or: “I’m almost sixty, so …”

But references to the encroaching years seemed to embolden rather then deflate him, especially when coupled with discussion of the book he was then writing. Murakami proudly announced that it would be his longest yet, twice the size of his last major work, 2002’s Kafka on the Shore, which spanned over 450 pages. It would be published in two volumes in Japan, and would land in Japanese bookstores some time in the spring of this year.

Well, land it has - and to thunderous, earth-shaking effect in Japan.

Titled 1Q84, the two-volume, 1,055-page novel is being hailed by some as Murakami’s masterwork. It is also selling like “hotcakes,” as one character says of another book in the novel, borrowing the American idiomatic expression (a trademark Murakami move). The novel’s publisher, Shinchosha, plans to increase the print run to 1 million copies by the end of June.

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