Writer of Color: Haruki Murakami

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Photo from The Guardian

Quick Facts on Writer of Color Haruki Murakami 

  • Born January 12, 1949
  • Writes novels and short stories
  • Did not start writing until 29 years old

Biography of Writer of Color Haruki Murakami 

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan on January 12, 1949 to parents who both taught Japanese literature. He is one of the most recognizable Japanese writers today.

Murakami grew up in the aftermath of World War II when Western culture was popularizing. He read widely, including works by authors Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. As a result, his writing itself is vastly different than that of other Japanese writers.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo. After, he and his wife ran a small coffee shop for several years. Murakami did not start writing until he was 29.

Alongside novels and short stories, he writes nonfiction from time to time. He is also responsible for translating several English language books to Japanese.

Murakami’s novels are often written in the first person. His writing is a unique mix of fantasy, philosophy and social commentary while retaining a dreamlike and magical quality.

Before You Read Writer of Color Haruki Murakami 

Japan is an island in East Asia, separated from the main continent by the Sea of Japan. It is the home to 127 million people with 47 distinct prefectures. The capital is Tokyo, where a little over 9 million people live.

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You may also hear Japan referred to as Nippon or Nihon, which means State of Japan and Origin of the Sun.

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Japan’s history can be segmented into three large parts.

Ancient Japan 30,000 BC to 1185

Early dwellers live on the island. They develop agriculture systems. Chinese Buddhism makes its way over and settles in Japan. The government becomes more centralized and while there is still plenty of Chinese cultural influence, Japanese culture slowly grows more distinct.

A small breakdown:

  • Paleolithic Period (30,000 BC)
  • Jōmon Period (14,000 BC)
  • Asuka Period (592 – 710)
  • Nara Period (710-784)
  • Heian Period (794 – 1185)

Feudal Era 1185 to 1960s

The feudal era was a time when the emperor assigned samurais (shoguns) to rule over territories. These shoguns were given immense power to govern with the emperor’s support.

The middle periods are marked with political unrest. While shoguns were able to rule with military backup, there were uprisings, protests and general discontent within the civilian population.

The most important aspect of the Edo period is that it was able to restore stability. The economy improved, the people cooperated and the government enforced rules that would isolate Japan from the rest of the world for about 220 years.

You might hear these terms in passing:

  • Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333)
  • Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573)
  • Momoyama Period (1573 –1603)
  • Edo Period (1603 – 1868)

Modern Era 1860s onward

While in the past Japan held itself private to the outside world, that changed in 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy marched his way onto the island. Japan was forced to sign a treaty called the Convention of Kanagawa, which effectively pushed Japan to participate in the global community.

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Time stamps of modern Japanese history include:

  • Meji Restoration (1868)
  • First Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 1895)
  • Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905)
  • World War I (1914 – 1918)
  • Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945)
  • Hiroshima bombings (1945)
  • Japan adopt democratic practices (1947)

Quotes from Writer of Color Haruki Murakami 

“I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them. I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world.”

“Writing novels is much the same. You gather up bones and make your gate, but no matter how wonderful the gate might be, that alone doesn’t make it a living breathing novel. A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.”

“I think memory is the most important asset of human beings. It’s a kind of fuel; it burns and it warms you. My memory is like a chest: There are so many drawers in that chest, and when I want to be a fifteen-year-old boy, I open up a certain drawer and I find the scenery I saw when I was a boy in Kobe. I can smell the air, and I can touch the ground, and I can see the green of the trees. That’s why I want to write a book.”

“Dreaming is the day job of novelists, but sharing our dreams is a still more important task for us. We cannot be novelists without this sense of sharing something.”

Works by Writer of Color Haruki Murakami 

1979 Hear the Wind Sing

1980 Pinball, 1973

1982 A Wild Sheep Chase

1985 Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

1987 Norwegian Wood

1988 Dance Dance Dance

1992 South of the Border, West of the Sun

1993 The Elephant Vanishes (short stories)

1994 The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

1999 Sputnik Sweetheart

2000 After the Quake

2002 Kafka on the Shore

2004 After Dark

2006 Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

2009 1Q84

2013 Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

2014 Men Without Women (short stories)

2018 Killing Commendatore

 

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