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Murakami in his own words
am 5. September 2011
For almost three decades Haruki Murakami has been providing his fans with a steady diet of quirky, imaginative and poignantly intimate novels and short stories. And yet, Murakami himself has written very little about himself, and has tried to keep his own life extremely private. So it is very enjoyable to finally get a glimpse of this author in his own words. Granted, over the years he had woven many elements from his own life into his stories, but it was never too easy to separate facts from fiction. In this book he has finally decided to talk clearly and forthrightly about some aspects of his writing career, but particularly about his passion for running. It turns out that he had picked up running at about the same time when he decided to become a novelist. He needed a physical activity that would compensate for his sudden switch to a more sedentary profession. Over the years, however, running had become a passion in its own right, but not quite an obsession. All the aspiring writers will find his analogies between long-distance running and writing, and novel writing in particular, very revealing and informative. According to Murakami, three indispensible things that any writer needs (in this order) are: talent, focus and endurance. Unsurprisingly talent is the most important of the three, but other two are required as well if one wants to become successful at writing. It is probably no coincidence that these three personal qualities are crucially important for long-distance running. The impression one gets from reading this book is that for Murakami running and writing reinforce each other.
Even if you don't care about either writing or running in its own right, this book offers many interesting stories and reflection. On a very basic level this is a book about life, and how one particular individual managed to find his place in the world. In Murakami's case, we see a kind of life that many of us would be happy to trade our own lives for: living in some of the World's most desirable places (Cambridge, New York, Hawai'i, Tokyo, Greece), doing what you really enjoy doing without any external constraints, being able to indulge in your favorite recreational activity to the fullest. The book manages to elicit a certain level of envy, although I am sure that was not what Murakami intended to convey when he decided to write it. In fact, we get a sense of a person who bears his own success and fame with a remarkable poise and even humility. Murakami may claim that he is not very good at interpersonal skills, but to me at least this book confirms that I would enjoy meeting Murakami the person as much as I enjoy reading his books. An autobiography that achieves this is definitely worth reading.