Murakami in 2005, giving a lecture at MIT.
January 12, 1949 |
|Occupation||Novelist, short-story writer, essayist, translator|
|Genre||Fiction, surrealism, magical realism, science fiction, Bildungsroman, picaresque, realism|
A Wild Sheep Chase (1982)
If you keep on writing for three years, every day, you should be strong. Of course, you have to be strong mentally, also. But in the first place, you have to be strong physically. That is a very important thing. Physically and mentally you have to be strong.
I had no ambition to be a writer because the books I read were too good, my standards were too high.
Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live.
Whenever I write a novel, music just sort of naturally slips in (much like cats do, I suppose).
Before I became a writer, I was running a jazz bar in the center of Tokyo, which means that I worked in filthy air all the time late into the night. I was very excited when I started making a living out of my writing, and I decided, 'I will live in nothing but an absolutely healthy way.'
I was enjoying myself writing, because I don't know what's going to happen when I take a ride around that corner. You don't know at all what you're going to find there. That can be thrilling when you read a book, especially when you're a kid and you're reading stories.
Whenever I write a novel, I have a strong sense that I am doing something I was unable to do before. With each new work, I move up a step and discover something new inside me.
Please think of me like an endangered species and just observe me quietly from far away. If you try to talk to me or touch me casually, I may get intimidated and bite you. So please be careful.
I just wanted to write something about running, but I realized that to write about my running is to write about my writing. It's a parallel thing in me.
I don't know how many good books I still have in me; I hope there are another four or five.
My father belongs to the generation that fought the war in the 1940s. When I was a kid my father told me stories – not so many, but it meant a lot to me. I wanted to know what happened then, to my father's generation. It's a kind of inheritance, the memory of it.
My heroes don't have anything special. They have something to tell other people but they don't know how, so they talk to themselves.
I'm not intelligent. I'm not arrogant. I'm just like the people who read my books. I used to have a jazz club, and I made the cocktails and I made the sandwiches. I didn't want to become a writer – it just happened.
It's physical. If you keep on writing for three years, every day, you should be strong. Of course you have to be strong mentally, also. But in the first place you have to be strong physically. That is a very important thing. Physically and mentally you have to be strong.
You are 27 or 28 right? It is very tough to live at that age. When nothing is sure. I have sympathy with you.
For me, writing a novel is like having a dream. Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I'm still awake. I can continue yesterday's dream today, something you can't normally do in everyday life.
You have to be practical. So every time I say, if you want to write a novel you have to be practical, people get bored. They are disappointed. They are expecting a more dynamic, creative, artistic thing to say. What I want to say is: you have to be practical.
I had my jazz club and I had enough money. So I didn't have to write for my living.
As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue with yesterday's dream. Because it is a dream, there are so many contradictions and I have to adjust them to make the story work. But, in principle, the original dream does not change.
There's no such thing as perfect writing, just like there's no such thing as perfect despair.
You know, if you are kind of rich, the best thing is that you don't have to think about money. The best thing you can buy with money is freedom, time. I don't know how much I earn a year. I have no idea. I don't know how much I pay in taxes.
I myself have been on my own and utterly independent since I graduated. I haven't belonged to any company or any system. It isn't easy to live like this in Japan.
Every writer has his writing technique – what he can and can't do to describe something like war or history. I'm not good at writing about those things, but I try because I feel it is necessary to write that kind of thing.
I used to run a full marathon in three hours and 25 or 26 minutes. Not any more.
Stories lie deep in our souls. Stories lie so deep at the bottom of our hearts that they can bring people together on the deepest level. When I write a novel, I go into such depths.
You have to dream intentionally. Most people dream a dream when they are asleep. But to be a writer, you have to dream while you are awake, intentionally.
Young people these days don't trust anything at all. They want to be free.
Since I have come to America, I am often asked whether my next novel will be set in America. I don't think it will. I think I will be living in America for some time to come, but while living in America, I would like to write about Japanese society from the outside.
I know how fiction matters to me, because if I want to express myself, I have to make up a story. Some people call it imagination. To me, it's not imagination. It's just a way of watching.
I'm kind of a big kettle. It takes time to get boiled, but then I'm always hot.
Many people tell me that they don 't know what to feel when they finish one of my books because the story was dark, or complicated, or strange. But while they were reading it, they were inside my world and they were happy. That's good.
Writing is fun – at least mostly. I write for four hours every day. After that I go running. As a rule, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). That's easy to manage.
Sometimes I wonder why I'm a novelist right now. There is no definite career reason why I became a writer. Something happened, and I became a writer. And now I'm a successful writer.
I get up early in the morning, 4 o'clock, and I sit at my desk and what I do is just dream. After three or four hours, that's enough. In the afternoon, I run.
It's true that at the time I was fond of Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and it was from them that I learned about this kind of simple, swift-paced style, but the main reason for the style of my first novel is that I simply did not have the time to write sustained prose.
Some people think literature is high culture and that it should only have a small readership. I don't think so… I have to compete with popular culture, including TV, magazines, movies and video games.
I collect records. And cats. I don't have any cats right now. But if I'm taking a walk and I see a cat, I'm happy.
I try not to think about anything special while running. As a matter of fact, I usually run with my mind empty. However, when I run empty-minded, something naturally and abruptly crawls in sometime. That might become an idea that can help me with my writing.
Most people dream a dream when they are asleep. But to be a writer, you have to dream while you are awake, intentionally. So I get up early in the morning, 4 o'clock, and I sit at my desk and what I do is just dream. After three or four hours, that's enough. In the afternoon, I run. The next day, the dream will continue.
I don't think of myself as an artist. I'm just a guy who can write.
Team sports aren't my thing. I find it easier to pick something up if I can do it at my own speed. And you don't need a partner to go running, you don't need a particular place, like in tennis, just a pair of trainers.
If you want to talk about something new, you have to make up a new kind of language.
I've been running a full marathon every year for more than 20 years, and my record is getting worse. Getting older, getting worse. It's natural.
In Japan they prefer the realistic style. They like answers and conclusions, but my stories have none. I want to leave them wide open to every possibility. I think my readers understand that openness.
Mere humans who root through their refrigerators at three o'clock in the morning can only produce writing that matches what they do. And that includes me.
When I write about a 15-year old, I jump, I return to the days when I was that age. It's like a time machine. I can remember everything. I can feel the wind. I can smell the air. Very actually. Very vividly.
George Orwell is half journalist, half fiction writer. I'm 100 percent fiction writer… I don't want to write messages. I want to write good stories. I think of myself as a political person, but I don't state my political messages to anybody.
Most young people were getting jobs in big companies, becoming company men. I wanted to be individual.
I'm not a fast thinker, but once I am interested in something, I am doing it for many years.
Confidence, as a teenager? Because I knew what I loved. I loved to read; I loved to listen to music; and I loved cats. Those three things. So, even though I was an only kid, I could be happy because I knew what I loved.
My priority is my books, at least at this point. What I have to do is write the narrative of this time.
Many people, especially young people, would like to be more independent and on their own. But it is very difficult and they suffer from feelings of isolation. I think that is one reason why young readers support my work.
I lost some of my friends because I got so famous, people who just assumed that I would be different now. I felt like everyone hated me. That is the most unhappy time of my life.
In Japan, the writers have made up a literary community, a circle, a society. I think 90 percent of Japan's writers live in Tokyo. Naturally, they make a community. There are groups and customs, and so they are tied up in a way.
I began running on an everyday basis after I became a writer. As being a writer requires sitting at a desk for hours a day, without getting some exercise you'd quickly get out of shape and gain weight, I figured.
When I was a teenager, I thought how great it would be if only I could write novels in English. I had the feeling that I would be able to express my emotions so much more directly than if I wrote in Japanese.
Most near-future fictions are boring. It's always dark and always raining, and people are so unhappy.
I think history is collective memories. In writing, I'm using my own memory, and I'm using my collective memory.
For novelists or musicians, if they really want to create something, they need to go downstairs and find a passage to get into the second basement. What I want to do is go down there, but still stay sane.
I could have been a cult writer if I'd kept writing surrealistic novels. But I wanted to break into the mainstream, so I had to prove that I could write a realistic book.
Every day I go to my study and sit at my desk and put the computer on. At that moment, I have to open the door. It's a big, heavy door. You have to go into the Other Room. Metaphorically, of course. And you have to come back to this side of the room. And you have to shut the door.
I started writing at the kitchen table after midnight. It took ten months to finish that first book; I sent it to a publisher and I got some kind of prize, so it was like a dream – I was surprised to find it happening.
I have no models in Japanese literature. I created my own style, my own way.
I've run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people's support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon.
When I am writing, I do not distinguish between the natural and supernatural. Everything seems real. That is my world, you could say.
I didn't want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that's a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I'm proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it.
When I start to write, I don't have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come.
I'm a writer, not a professional runner. It's fun and it helps me write. I need powerful concentration.
I don't want to express my opinion about actual politics, because if I do, I have to be responsible for my decision.
I didn't read so much Japanese literature. Because my father was a teacher of Japanese literature, I just wanted to do something else.
In my younger days, I was trying to write sophisticated prose and fantastic stories.
I have always liked running, so it wasn't particularly difficult to make it a habit. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you can do it anywhere. It does not require anybody to do it with, and so I found the sport perfectly fits me as a person who tends to be independent and individualistic.
I am worrying about my country. I feel I have a responsibility as a novelist to do something.
I am 55 years old now. It takes three years to write one book. I don't know how many books I will be able to write before I die. It is like a countdown. So with each book I am praying – please let me live until I am finished.
As long as possible, I would really like to complete one marathon per year. Though my time has been slowing down as I get older, it has become a very important part of my life.