Joy and Surprise: An Interview with Haruki Murakami


A bestseller internationally, Haruki Murakami is frequently mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature on the basis of several spectacular novels, including Kafka on the Shore, A Wild Sheep Chase, and my personal favorite The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. As has been widely noted, Murakami’s fiction often has a luminous and somewhat surreal or fantastical quality as a natural part of the novelist’s worldview. His fiction also almost always features cats, sometimes in mysterious roles.

At 925 pages, Murakami’s latest novel 1Q84 features all of these trademarks, including the cats, but on a much more massive scale. There has been some resistance to that scale from some reviewers, perhaps because the length tends to further emphasize and highlight the open-ended nature of Murakami’s approach to fiction. However, careful and immersive readers will love this mind-bending story. What is 1Q84 “about”? I’m afraid it’s one of those novels where any pat description fails to convey the true essence and its capacity for brilliant digressions feeding back into the main story. But perhaps the publisher’s description—which calls it a love story, a fantasy, a dystopia, and a novel of self-discovery—is as good a starting point as any:

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

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Comments (6)

It feels amazing to live with such a person on the same planet and at the same time; it is amazing to be his friend on Facebook and to be able to “like” his books. It is real and surreal at the same time. Reading “1Q84” overwhelmed me with its “impossible to outline in advance” grandeur. Finishing the novel, I was left with a question – what do I read next?

Posted by: marina | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Great interview. I'm an avid fan and I got particular pleasure from reading that Murakami writes without an outline. Whenever I read a Murakami book I get exactly this feeling; that I'm there with the narrator, and neither of us knows what's going to happen next.

Posted by: Stephen Martin | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM

I really enjoyed this interview; the idea that Murakami writes without planning too much ahead, that he is just as excited to found out what happens next, is a lovely thing. And, though it probably shouldn't continue to surprise me when it happens, it always seems to surprise me when I read that an immensely talented (and successful) writer (and translator!) such as Murakami still feels a bit awkward when he introduces himself as a "novelist" even though he is one of the very, very highest order. It's a fairly common story, I think, and I wonder why that is. Anyway. Thanks for this interview, Omni (and Jeff)!

Posted by: Sam M-B | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 8:40 AM

A wonderful holiday present for me today, finding this interview with our world's greatest living novelist. Thank you, Jeff VanderMeer, Amazon and most of all, Senor Murakami, for this insightful and luminous interview. I loved reading every word. You've given us so much for the holdiays, 1Q84, and now this, insights into your world and yourself and the generosity and joy that motivates you to give so much to your readers. Senor Murakami, you are so young and vital, surely there will be time for you to win that Nobel Prize yet. We who love you and your literary gifts to us, we cheer for you year after year and, I believe it won't be long before you do win it. The whole round world knows you deserve the Nobel Prizw. I ask myself, if this is what he has given us now, what will we get five or ten or fifteen years from now? I am astonished and I know, even writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he must surely be astonished by you too. Thank you for this and happy, wonderful holidays to you all! I loved reading this interview more than I can possibly say.

Posted by: Joyce Dade | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 8:35 AM

I think life once lived sounds uninteresting, but when written down, can make wonderful even unrealistic stories. That's what I love about Haruki Murakami's books: there's a hidden sense and wonderful story in everything, we just have to notice it.
I'm waiting for more, even more compelling novels.

Posted by: Smoke | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 7:43 AM

I have been a Murakami fanatical fan since reading his first novel translated into English, A Wild Sheep Chase. I just finished 1Q84 and found myself underlining many parts. His use of metaphor and simile is like no other.

Posted by: Leslie Roper | Wednesday December 14, 2011 at 7:37 AM

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