Haruki Murakami at the Library

Last week, the publishing company, Alfred A. Knopf, released the cover for the new novel by Haruki Murakami, 1q84, a surreal adventure loosely based on George Orwell’s 1984.  Along with the release of the cover, Knopf also included an essay by the jacket’s designer, Chip Kidd.

1q84 will mark the 12th novel by the Japanese author Murakami, whose writing career did not begin until he was 29 years old. Legend has it, he was watching a baseball game for the Hiroshima Carps, when a Dave Hilton double, prompted in him the ambition and desire to write a novel.  A few months later Murakami would finish Hear the Wind Sing, a book whose dark humor, western influence, and magical realism, would set a tone that would come to dominate his future novels.

Now over the course of 22 years Murakami  has  gone on to write numerous award winning and best selling novels about protagonists dealing with love, identity, the guilt of World War II, language, nostalgia, and the course of fate set against surreal and dystopic backgrounds.

Continue reading for books by and articles on Haruki Murakami at Prairie State College

Novels

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
1993

The last surviving victim of an experiment that implanted the subjects’ heads with electrodes that decipher coded messages is the unnamed narrator. Half the chapters are set in Tokyo, where the narrator negotiates underground worlds populated by INKlings, dodges opponents of both sides of a raging high-tech infowar, and engages in an affair with a beautiful librarian with a gargantuan appetite. In alternating chapters he tries to reunite with his mind and his shadow, from which he has been severed by the grim, dark “replacement” consciousness implanted in him by a dotty neurophysiologist. Both worlds share the unearthly theme of unicorn skulls that moan and glow.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
1997

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat.  Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.  As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

South of the Border, West of the Sun
1998

Born in 1951 in an affluent Tokyo suburb, Hajime (beginning in Japanese) has arrived at middle age wanting for almost nothing. The postwar years have brought him a fine marriage, two daughters, and an enviable career as the proprietor of two jazz clubs. Yet a nagging sense of in-authenticity about his success threatens Hajime’s happiness. And a boyhood memory of a wise, lonely girl named Shimamoto clouds his heart. When Shimamoto shows up one rainy night, now a breathtaking beauty with a secret from which she is unable to escape, the fault lines of doubt in Hajime’s quotidian existence begin to give way. And the details of stolen moments past and present–a Nat King Cole melody, a face pressed against a window, a handful of ashes drifting downriver to the sea–threaten to undo him completely.

A Wild Sheep Chase
2002

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself.

Kafka on the Shore
2005

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.

Biographies on Haruki Murakami

Articles on Haruki Murakami’s works

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