Every once in a while, we come across a book that pushes the boundaries of thinking, of laws of physics and even the most basics concepts of life and reality.
And then we come across authors who create an entire genre full of books that tether on the verge of the obscure – where people cross over into alternate worlds, where cats talk and a subtle hint of magic lingers in the air.
One such world is the world of Haruki Murakami. A world of jazz tunes and talking cats. Reading Murakami feels like slowly drifting off to sleep, one perhaps induced by a magical potion.
People who love him, normally struggle to put into words what Murakami and his books mean to them. So, imagine my paralysing fear when I decided to write an entire blog post on him!
Such was his fame after the release of Norwegian Wood, that he would be mobbed at airports and train stations, leading to his very hasty departure from Japan until things cooled down.
Murakami is certainly an acquired taste, for he is not for those moments when you crave fast fiction, rather Murakami is for those moments when you want to sit back, unwind and unfold, nurture a glass of vintage wine, and soak in all that is good in this world. Murakami, is subtle magic.
I had a bit of a chaotic introduction to his works, hurriedly picking up Kafka on the Shore from WH Smith at the airport, and then spending the next 12 hours wondering whatever it is that I have gotten myself into. There were cats that talked, and fish that rained from the sky and this oddly beautiful boy at the centre of it all. And jazz, there was jazz music everywhere, even forming one of the key plotlines in the book.
Having jumped headlong into this mad beautiful world, I then took a moment to dial back and revisit his literature, as a newbie, as if for the very first time. It has ever since, been a tradition for me to read 1-2 of his books every year, as a tribute to his genius and as a way for me to escape into his astonishing and bewitching world.
Since I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked, what’s a good way to start with Murakami, and since I always lose track of which of his books I want to recommend, I have put together a mini-guide to Reading Murakami.
By no means is this a definitive list and if I wanted to make one, a single blog post wouldn’t suffice, so use this perhaps as a starting point and see where the journey takes you?
So, a very Happy Birthday Murakami-san! Thank you for all the magic, and for instilling in me a love for jazz, oddly intuitive cats, and a deep yearning for the obscure.
Notes and further reading (with a potential of taking you down the ‘Murakami Rabbit-hole’)
- Haruki Murakami was born on 12th Jan 1949 in Kyoto, and it wasn’t until his 30s that he actually started writing
- The above list is my personal guide to Murakami’s books, however it’s not a definitive guide
- The Lit Hub did a wonderful interview with him where he dispenses advice to aspiring writers which can be found here
- A more recent interview, by The New York Times is here
- Both of the above are a great insight into his persona and his creative process
- If you have some time to spare, browsing his official website is highly recommended. This is my favourite part of the website