Summer Reading with Haruki Murakami

July 14, 2007 at 5:44 pm 4 comments

Looking for some good books to take to the beach this summer?

Kafka on the Shore, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman or After Dark, all by Haruki Murakami, an award-winning Japanese author, should hit the spot (assuming you’re already bikini-ready from Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother’s Tokyo Kitchen, of course).

murakami.jpg

Known for his surreal style, which combines elements of pop culture, nostalgia, and fantasy, Murakami wrote his first novel at age 29, and later became a translator, translating works from Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffanys, In Cold Blood) and John Irving (The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules) among other authors, into Japanese. Murakami caught the attention of the mainstream western world in the late ’90s, with his novel Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Two excerpts from the novel were published in The New Yorker, and many of his short fiction pieces have debuted there as well.

Kafka on the Shore (2005, now in paperback, and #1 on the New York Times Top Ten list of the same year) depicts two parallel adventures: that of Kafka, a runaway 15-year-old boy searching for his lost sister and mother, and that of Nakata, an old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Each chapter alternates between the two stories as the dual protagonists race closer and closer toward each other, to an extraordinary and suspenseful conclusion.

After Dark, which came out in the States this May, takes place in one night and starts its story at the Denny’s restaurant in Tokyo, where we meet a young female student, a jazz musician, a businessman, a prostitute, and a hotel manager, each harboring a dark secret.

Because of his references to modern life, especially American music and film, Murakami’s stories work equally well in Japanese and English.

If you’re pressed for time, pick up Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (August 2006), a short story collection that includes Murakami’s earlier work. It’s easy to get lost in the dream-like quality of the writing; you may not want to come back to reality!

Happy reading.

Sarah S.

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment.

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