Born in Kyoto in 1949, Haruki Murakami spent most of his youth in Kobe. Both his father and mother taught Japanese literature, igniting a passion for literature early on in their son. Murakami’s father was also a Buddhist priest (meditations on religion and spirituality are key themes in Murakami’s work), and his mother was the daughter of a merchant. Murakami showed an affinity for Western culture from an early age, particularly Western literature and music. His favorite writers were Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and his favorite musicians were the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Charlie Parker, and countless jazz and classical musicians, particularly Ludwig van Beethoven. Murakami graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo in 1973, where he studied theater arts, and his first job was at a record store. Just before graduating, Murakami opened a coffeehouse (which served as a jazz bar in the evenings) called Peter Cat in Okobunji, Tokyo, with his wife, Yoko. He is a collector of vinyl records, a full-marathon runner and triathlete, and obsessed with cats (all interests that weigh heavily on his fiction).
Murakami did not start writing until he was twenty-nine years old. Legend has it that he was attending a baseball game in Tokyo when he had a revelation regarding writing. Murakami suddenly realized that he was capable of writing a book after seeing American ballplayer Dave Hilton (playing for the Hiroshima Carps) hit a double. Murakami started working on a novel immediately following the game. After several months he had finished Hear the Wind Sing, a short, fragmented book (modeled on Brautigan and written in fits and starts) that introduced many elements that would come to dominate Murakami’s style: an embrace of Western influences (especially writers Brautigan and Vonnegut, and Western music), dark humor, anonymity, relationships, loss, and alienation. His success—he won the Gunzo Literature Prize for the novel—encouraged him to keep at it. He next published Pinball, 1973 and then A Wild Sheep Chase, the last two works of what came to be known as the trilogy of the rat.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World marked the beginning of Murakami’s career as a writer of international reputation, but it was Norwegian Wood that made him a star of the literary world. Initially published in two installments, Norwegian Wood sold millions of copies among the youth of Japan, catapulting Murakami to superstar status. Murakami initially was not pleased with the sort of fame he had attained, and he left Japan to travel through Europe, before settling in the United States. He became a writing fellow at Princeton and Tufts, where he worked on and completed South of the Border, West of the Sun and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Murakami returned to Japan after the Hanshin earthquake and the poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. He worked on two nonfiction books about the gas attack, which were combined to form the English edition of Underground. Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, and After Dark cemented Murakami’s reputation as one of the world’s most popular and critically successful novelists. Several of his stories and novels have been adapted into films, and Hashiru koto ni tsuite kataru toki ni boku no kataru koto (2007; What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir, 2008), Murakami’s memoir about his life as a marathon runner and triathlete, was a highly anticipated step in a new direction for the successful novelist.
Haruki Murakami (mur-ah-kah-mee) was born on January 12, 1949, in Koyto, Japan. The family moved two years later to Ashiya, a suburb of the port city Kobe, where his parents taught Japanese literature. An only child, Murakami was rebellious, an attitude that led to his estrangement from his parents when he was twenty. Considering Japanese literature boring, young Murakami became obsessed with American popular culture. He studied English in school and eagerly bought American paperbacks that...
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