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Musings on running



Musings on running

When not writing, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is out running a marathon

What I Talk about When I talk About Running
By Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Published by Harvill Secker, London
Available at Asia Books, Bt595
 
    This book will appeal specifically to two types of readers: those who enjoy Murakami’s stories of the absurdity and loneliness of big-city life, and those who love long-distance running. Having read it, they might end up liking both. That’s because this memoir is not limited to his enthusiasm for running – there are plenty of other biographical titbits too.
    Murakami, praised by The Guardian as “one of the world’s greatest novelists”, paints a portrait of his 60-year-old self as a serious marathon runner and triathlete with a taste for 1980s Duran Duran and Hall and Oates.
    Running a marathon during the cold months and taking part in a triathlon during summer has become part of the natural cycle of his life. We can’t help but admire his knowledge of music and food (he used to run a jazz bar in Tokyo) as well as his tremendous physical fitness (the result of 20 years of annual marathon running.)
    But as well as an exercise, running is also a philosophical quest for Murakama -- though he doesn’t do much thinking during his marathons. Indeed, running offers him a chance to escape the mental chatter, to free his mind of clutter (“I run in order to acquire a void”). In other words, he thinks of nothing.
    “The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go.”
    Murakami is at his best during these long-striding philosophical asides. He also points out that his running philosophy has served him well in his writing life. Besides talent and focus, a good writer needs endurance, he says. It all adds up to a picture of a man addicted to the pleasure of conquest.  
    Reviewed by Manote Tripathi, The Nation


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