Half of our lives are spent in analyzing the past and anticipating the future. We rarely live in the present despite waking up to each morning. They say books transcend you into another world, a world which is fictional. But, few authors are gifted to portray life as it is, in its raw form, the way life is supposed to unfold at various stages.
One such author is Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami. Some might appreciate his pattern of storytelling while others might dismiss him for telling layered tales. Whatever it is, one thing is for sure. Murakami’s writings are mirrors to our souls. We cannot help but relate to the stories of our lives.
Neither the author tries to impose the Japanese culture on the reader nor does he make a role model out of any of his protagonists. They are not heroes but are ordinary humans with extraordinary tales to share.
His keen observance of his surroundings and people, in particular, have made for compelling narratives.
In addition, his books do contain western influences due to which he is immensely popular with the millennial generation. In fact, he wrote his first novel in English before rewriting in his native language. While it did upset readers back in Tokyo, it was just the beginning for Murakami.
With dozens of novels, short stories and non-fiction to his kitty, he is best known for his books – Norwegian Wood, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore.
Professor Matthew Strecher, a Murakami scholar from Tokyo’s Sophia University says, “Murakami is able to use this very simple style he’s got to create a story that could be read anywhere in the world and grasped by anybody in virtually any language no matter what their background.”
No wonder, his books seem so close to life.
In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami has summed up beautifully the peculiar situation of learning something unsettling that has happened to someone whom you never knew and has no relation to your direct life.
“I felt sorry for the thirty-seven-year-old truck driver who had died in the accident. No one wants to die in agony of ruptured internal organs in a blizzard in Asahikawa. But I was not acquainted with the truck driver, and he did not know me. And so my sympathy for him had nothing personal about it. I could feel only a generalized kind of sympathy for a fellow human being who had met with a sudden, violent death. That generalized emotion might be very real for me and at the same time not real at all.” – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Hasn’t it happened to all of us at least once in life wherein we weren’t hugely close to someone but if something terrible shook their lives, we have thought about it even though we are not directly related to the event.
He weaves his words around themes that his readers would care about to read.
As a versatile writer, he has always written about topics that would concern one and all. He met the gas attack survivors of Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack in 1995 and published Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, which gave the readers an insight into the tragedy as spoken and suffered by the survivors.
Life is much more than what an individual feels. Life is worth doing something that concerns one and all and mutually benefits souls.
His ability to portray the dark sides of his protagonists is incredibly profound.
To err is human and Murakami has brought this to life through his characters. Aomame is an assassin in 1Q84 who devours history and news reports so much so that she reads a book about the South Manchurian Railway Company of the 1930s in a bar. Murakami connects these passions with her ability to kill perpetrators of domestic violence without remorse.
And, we have always wanted to live a life without regrets.
Murakami tells us that failures are graceful.
Norwegian Wood explores concepts of loss and the need to overcome one’s struggles with grief. The book ends with a message: Our failures are graceful. Even if it is a loss, we continue to live and what is more elegant than that?
Aren’t all of us living pieces of literature? We belong to different genres. We talk. We walk. We inspire. We are versatile. If you ask me, we excel in an undocumented ‘bildungsroman’. As protagonists, we often begin with our stories with an emotional loss and gradually achieve maturity as individuals. Murakami just needs a line to explain this. If you have read Kafka on the Shore, you will agree with me.
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” – Kafka on the Shore
When you are the driver of your life, you have to get the basics of steering right.
Murakami says unabashedly in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. And, that’s the golden rule of living.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami
Even we do not understand loneliness the way Murakami does.
“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” – Sputnik Sweetheart
Sputnik Sweetheart is another gem of a novel which was my first Murakami novel. So, it is also a personal favorite.
If somebody has come close to life, it is Haruki Murakami. He gets us like nobody else.
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