We simply haven’t showcased enough of Japan’s writing talent so let’s start with Haruki Murakami. He writes novels, he writes short stories, he writes non-fiction, he has a shelf filled with literary awards and he’s sold a lot of books.
Murakami is one of the most important figures in modern literature and is always prepared to challenge readers and critics with books that don’t conform to traditional narrative structures. Acclaimed as his fiction is, one of Murakami’s most engaging titles is about running – his 2008 book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, shows another side of his character.
He started writing at the end of his twenties and his debut novel was called Hear the Wind Sing. He followed that book with a sequel called Pinball, 1973. A Wild Sheep Chase completed his ‘Rat’ trilogy.
In the mid-1980s, Murakami penned a fantasy called Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and then wrote Norwegian Wood – a two-volume bestseller about nostalgia, loss and sexuality that really put him on the map.
The 1990s saw The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (a novel about an unemployed man that shows an apparently mundane life is actually very complicated) and Sputnik Sweetheart (a novel about loneliness and conforming to society’s expectations).
This century he has been acclaimed for Kafka on the Shore (an unconventional narrative with two plots running side by side) and also published an anthology called Birthday Stories, which is just that, and includes work from Raymond Carver, David Foster Wallace and Paul Theroux.
Haruki Murakami has climbed two distinct literary mountains – first making the grade in Japan and then having his English translations acclaimed by literary critics in North America and Europe. His team of translators deserves a nod of appreciation.
In 2009 Murakami released 1Q84 in Japanese. It became a bestseller when it was translated into English in 2011. Murakami's latest novel is Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, published in Japanese in 2013 and in English in 2014.