May 13, 2013 00:00 By THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN Kyoto, Ja 3,625 Viewed
In an all-too-rare lecture, author Haruki Murakami opens up about himself
In an extremely rare public appearance, best-selling author Haruki Murakami opened up about himself and the worlds of his novels in a lecture at Kyoto University last Monday.
“My profession is writing. So I’d rather not get involved with things [other than writing],” Murakami, 64, said when asked about his reclusive nature.
“I’d really appreciate if you treated me like an endangered Iriomote wild cat. So even if you spot me, I want you to observe me from a distance,” the writer joked with an audience of about 500 people.
Fans from across the nation gathered for his lecture at the university’s ClockTower Centennial Hall. Titled “Tamashii o Miru, Tamashii o Kaku” (“Observing a Soul, Writing a Soul”), the interview-style event was held to commemorate the establishment of literary prizes named after clinical psychologist Hayao Kawai.
Murakami, who was close to Kawai, also spoke about his memories with the late psychologist and his latest book, “Shikisai o Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi” (“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”).
Monday’s lecture was the first event in which Murakami spoke in front of an audience in Japan in 18 years. He last appeared at a book reading held after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Murakami appeared at the venue casually dressed in a jacket, sneakers and reddish-brown trousers. Filming and recording were strictly prohibited.
Murakami said he met Kawai, who died in 2007, in the United States while living there.
Although the two men worked in different fields, the writer said: “I, as a novelist, and Dr Kawai, as a clinician, explored the depths [of the mind]. I think we both understood what that’s like.”
“Dr Kawai was the only person who wholly accepted in a truly precise manner what I see when I use the word ‘narrative’,” the writer added.
Tracing his journey since his debut as an author, Murakami also talked about his latest book, which has already sold more than 1 million copies.
The book tells the story of protagonist Tsukuru Tazaki and his four high school friends who decide to end their friendships with him during university.
“Initially, it was meant to be a novella,” he said.
However, Murakami said as he continued writing, he was tempted to explain the reasons behind the four students’ actions.
Murakami began writing the novel in February last year and finished the first draft in August. He then polished the book through a number of rewrites.
“I’ve also experienced something similar, though not as bad as the episode [described in the book],” Murakami recalled. “When people get really hurt, they just want to hide their feelings and let go of them, but it’s not that easy. After we’re emotionally scarred, we close ourselves off from others. Then gradually as time goes by, we open ourselves up little by little. And we repeat it, and I believe that’s what we do. I guess at the end of the day, I wanted to write a story just like that.”
It is Murakami’s first work in three years and comes after the final instalment of the acclaimed “1Q84” - a three-part novel containing the usual Murakami mixture of parallel universes, bizarre characters and surrealist happenings as the lives of a female murderer and a male novelist intertwine.
“1Q84”, which can be read as “1984” in Japanese, was a worldwide phenomenon. Murakami’s novels, which have drawn international praise and been translated into around 40 languages, include “Norwegian Wood”, “Kafka on the Shore” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”.
The author, who divides his time between the US and Japan, has a huge following. Fans praise his lyrical and surreal prose, which often takes as its subject Japanese people living on the margins of a homogenous society.
At the end of his lecture, Murakami left the audience, saying: “Sometimes I hear people saying, ‘I cried a lot’ when they read my books. But I’d be happier if they told me they couldn’t stop laughing. Sorrow causes you to turn inward, but laughter broadens your mind.”