Haruki Murakami is already one of the most representative writers of our era, firstly because he is one of the most read authors in the entire world, but also, and even if he did not have such an impressive sales record, because his literary proposal, which oscillates between pop and the complexity of human nature, the oneiric nature as the realm where things really happen and reality as the area of malleable and diffuse bounds, has known how to ask attainable questions surrounding love, loneliness, and other issues without sacrificing their depth —a combination that perhaps is the formula to his success. Murakami’s sagacity has been translated into precise words that bring to life the thoughts many of us have in our heads because we share an era and similar circumstances.

In the 182nd number of “The Art of Fiction” series —which was created with the purpose of interviewing the writers who have revolutionised the literature of their time—The Paris Review is offering the reader an interesting conversation with the Japanese author. Following John Wray’s guidance, Murakami exposes some of the fundamental ideas behind his creative endeavours, his heritage and his background, his projects and the literature he tries to bring forth through his work, “Murakami’s world is an allegorical one, constructed of familiar symbols—an empty well, an underground city—but the meaning of those symbols remains hermetic to the last,” writes Wray when he introduces the author during his interview and also as its objective: delving into Murakami’s symbolic world.

Their conversation is long, but as if it was the extension of the author’s personal style, it is possible to follow it by keeping track of some of the obsessions that are also present in his work. Women, humour, a deliberate dissociation between fantasy and reality, music and film as dispensing machines that nurture a story, the constant observation of facts without making a judgement the values them.

What is Murakami’s narrative engine? Mainly intuition. “The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next”, he states, a formula that can be adapted and applied at different times, is repeated throughout the interview. Murakami does not know, but he senses. He does not know how or where his novels will end, but suddenly, when he reaches something, he feels it’s enough, that he has written what he wanted to write. Intuition as a type of North Star that all of a sudden appears in a cloudy sky, hidden but vaguely visible, signaling the direction and the way.

The author of Sputnik, my love, knows that our world and his readers are not the same that lived during the times of Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, and while his work is close to the monumental oeuvres of the Russians, the background to his fictions is completely different. As an entertaining hobby, literature is at a disadvantage, especially if we compare it to films and videogames, thus Murakami stresses that “we have to grab people by the neck and pull them in” to fiction. How? By crossing over different disciplines, incorporating everydayness into literature.

Narratives are very important nowadays in writing books. I don’t care about theories. I don’t care about vocabulary. What is important is whether the narrative is good or not. We have a new kind of folklore, as a result of this Internet world.

In terms of his characteristic oscillation between a real reality and a dreamed one —within yet another: a novel, with its own rules—, something that stands out is the role women play as a bridge between one world and the next. Murakami calls them “Medium”, the vehicle required “to make something happen through herself”, “harbingers of the coming world”, he adds: “That’s why they always come to my protagonist; he doesn’t go to them.”

But we can also point out one of the most human events, with incredible profound implications: loss. In general terms Murakami’s protagonists are characterized by their losses, almost always women; a catastrophic event that changes their modest lives and inevitably forces them to embark on a journey. As Odysseus, as Parsifal, Philip Marlowe, or the grim detective Chandler, these characters set out on their own expeditions through regions overflowing with a lost presence —which, to a great extent, are their own realm: their dreams, desires and fears.

He has to survive those experiences, and in the end he finds what he was searching for. But he is not sure it’s the same thing. I think that’s the motif of my books. Where do those things come from? I don’t know. It fits me. It’s the driving power of my stories: missing and searching and finding. And disappointment, a kind of new awareness of the world.

Disappointment as a rite of passage?

That’s right. Experience itself is meaning. The protagonist has changed in the course of his experiences—that’s the main thing. Not what he found, but how he changed.

One of literature’s oldest problems is the double nature of fiction, which makes the author resemble his character while these are also, sometimes, diametrically different to him. Saramago asserted that “his characters where his teachers and the author their apprentice”. In In Search for Lost Time, Proust says that in order to create, the artist has to search deep inside himself, without being frightened, because it is only in those chasms —and not in mundane life, as Saint-Beuve asserted— would we be able to find the most valuable subjects that will run through the veins of the work. Murakami also had “to dig and dig and dig”, “But once I got there”, he said he “was strong and confident. It was good to be digging all the way.”

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Haruki Murakami is already one of the most representative writers of our era, firstly because he is one of the most read authors in the entire world, but also, and even if he did not have such an impressive sales record, because his literary proposal, which oscillates between pop and the complexity of human nature, the oneiric nature as the realm where things really happen and reality as the area of malleable and diffuse bounds, has known how to ask attainable questions surrounding love, loneliness, and other issues without sacrificing their depth —a combination that perhaps is the formula to his success. Murakami’s sagacity has been translated into precise words that bring to life the thoughts many of us have in our heads because we share an era and similar circumstances.

In the 182nd number of “The Art of Fiction” series —which was created with the purpose of interviewing the writers who have revolutionised the literature of their time—The Paris Review is offering the reader an interesting conversation with the Japanese author. Following John Wray’s guidance, Murakami exposes some of the fundamental ideas behind his creative endeavours, his heritage and his background, his projects and the literature he tries to bring forth through his work, “Murakami’s world is an allegorical one, constructed of familiar symbols—an empty well, an underground city—but the meaning of those symbols remains hermetic to the last,” writes Wray when he introduces the author during his interview and also as its objective: delving into Murakami’s symbolic world.

Their conversation is long, but as if it was the extension of the author’s personal style, it is possible to follow it by keeping track of some of the obsessions that are also present in his work. Women, humour, a deliberate dissociation between fantasy and reality, music and film as dispensing machines that nurture a story, the constant observation of facts without making a judgement the values them.

What is Murakami’s narrative engine? Mainly intuition. “The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next”, he states, a formula that can be adapted and applied at different times, is repeated throughout the interview. Murakami does not know, but he senses. He does not know how or where his novels will end, but suddenly, when he reaches something, he feels it’s enough, that he has written what he wanted to write. Intuition as a type of North Star that all of a sudden appears in a cloudy sky, hidden but vaguely visible, signaling the direction and the way.

The author of Sputnik, my love, knows that our world and his readers are not the same that lived during the times of Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, and while his work is close to the monumental oeuvres of the Russians, the background to his fictions is completely different. As an entertaining hobby, literature is at a disadvantage, especially if we compare it to films and videogames, thus Murakami stresses that “we have to grab people by the neck and pull them in” to fiction. How? By crossing over different disciplines, incorporating everydayness into literature.

Narratives are very important nowadays in writing books. I don’t care about theories. I don’t care about vocabulary. What is important is whether the narrative is good or not. We have a new kind of folklore, as a result of this Internet world.

In terms of his characteristic oscillation between a real reality and a dreamed one —within yet another: a novel, with its own rules—, something that stands out is the role women play as a bridge between one world and the next. Murakami calls them “Medium”, the vehicle required “to make something happen through herself”, “harbingers of the coming world”, he adds: “That’s why they always come to my protagonist; he doesn’t go to them.”

But we can also point out one of the most human events, with incredible profound implications: loss. In general terms Murakami’s protagonists are characterized by their losses, almost always women; a catastrophic event that changes their modest lives and inevitably forces them to embark on a journey. As Odysseus, as Parsifal, Philip Marlowe, or the grim detective Chandler, these characters set out on their own expeditions through regions overflowing with a lost presence —which, to a great extent, are their own realm: their dreams, desires and fears.

He has to survive those experiences, and in the end he finds what he was searching for. But he is not sure it’s the same thing. I think that’s the motif of my books. Where do those things come from? I don’t know. It fits me. It’s the driving power of my stories: missing and searching and finding. And disappointment, a kind of new awareness of the world.

Disappointment as a rite of passage?

That’s right. Experience itself is meaning. The protagonist has changed in the course of his experiences—that’s the main thing. Not what he found, but how he changed.

One of literature’s oldest problems is the double nature of fiction, which makes the author resemble his character while these are also, sometimes, diametrically different to him. Saramago asserted that “his characters where his teachers and the author their apprentice”. In In Search for Lost Time, Proust says that in order to create, the artist has to search deep inside himself, without being frightened, because it is only in those chasms —and not in mundane life, as Saint-Beuve asserted— would we be able to find the most valuable subjects that will run through the veins of the work. Murakami also had “to dig and dig and dig”, “But once I got there”, he said he “was strong and confident. It was good to be digging all the way.”

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