International bestselling writer Haruki Murakami is best known for his magical realist novels that explore issues deeply rooted in the human experience. He has often been criticized by Japanese literary circles for being ‘un-Japanese’ because of the heavy influence of Western literature on his writing style. Opposing the Japanese ideal of the strong, independent man unhindered by emotion, Murakami’s male heroes are plagued by ennui, deeply romantic, and often victim to this whims of a more dominant woman. Influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, and Kurt Vonnegut, themes of alienation and loneliness are explored in often surreal landscapes of dreams, distant memories, the subconscious, and parallel worlds throughout his works.
Born the only child of two Japanese literature professors, Murakami’s career as a writer did not begin until he was 29 and had already established himself as the owner of a Tokyo jazz cafe, which he ran with his wife. He was inspired to write his first novel while watching a game of baseball in 1978. Exploring themes of loneliness and loss and making frequent references to modern Western music and culture, his first short novel Hear the Wind Sing, was an immediate success and launched Murakami’s career.
Murakami’s next most notable novel, and perhaps most well-known work, Norwegian Wood was published in 1987, the title inspired by The Beatles’ song of the same name. A sad story of love, loss, and nostalgic yearning, Norwegian Wood tells the tale of a young man who, upon hearing a song in a bar, reminisces about his college years and the relationships he developed with two very different women. Themes of sexuality, suicide, and the grief of lost love are weaved within beautifully imagined scenes of dense woods and forests.
Published in 1995, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle marked an evolution in Murakami’s style from his previously deeply personal narratives towards one more collective, drawing on inspiration from alienation and turmoil inherent in broader social and historical conflicts. Set in suburban Tokyo, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle tells the story of an unambitious young man who, while searching for his wife’s lost cat, discovers a vortex into a parallel dimension in a dry well. Reality and illusion blend until it is difficult to distinguish the two, physical violence and murder allude to the legacy of Japan’s aggression in WWII.
Published in 2010, 1Q84 is notably Murakami’s most complex and ambitious novel, the title a Japanese wordplay on George Orwell’s 1984. Throughout the story, a sexually promiscuous female assassin and her mathematical genius male counterpart find themselves in a distorted version of reality dominated by a mystical religious cult. Sex, murder, suicide, and supernatural powers exist in a disturbing futuristic world filled with religious uncertainty and unease.
Murakami has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates for his work, was named one of TIME’s most influential people in April 2015, and his works have been adapted for film, stage, and musical recordings. Additional signed first edition novels written by Haruki Murakami in our collection include: Pinball, 1973, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, After Dark, and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.