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
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