On Culture, Reviews
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Haruki Murakami at The Auckland Writers Festival

A quiet hum settles around the full-to-capacity ASB theatre that, for this event sold out in three days. John Freeman recites the history of Haruki Murakami who has published best sellers both in Japan and Internationally. He is known as a contemporary Japanese author who attracts critical attention from the Japanese literary establishment for his un-Japanese fiction.

Thunderous applause erupts as Haruki walks onto the stage wearing a green ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ t-shirt under his dinner jacket. Small and athletic, he looks much younger than his 69 years.

When asked questions, Haruki often replies in a slow deliberate manner. ‘ I wanted to write,’ pause, ‘ I was afraid I cannot write,’ and the audience waits, ‘so I caught the fear in my palms. I started to write.’ Haruki wrote a 200-page novel titled Hear The Wind Sing, and entered it in a literary competition. It won and so began his writing career.

Haruki describes how he wakes at 4am, makes a coffee, plays quiet jazz music and sits down to write. ‘When I begin to write, I don’t know where the story will take me before I start. I let the story unfold as I write.’ John Freeman demonstrates exceptional host empathy by allowing the long silent pauses of Haruki. ‘I write for 4 – 5 hours every morning. Then I run for an hour. After my run I shower and translate my writing. Then I listen to music or watch baseball before dinner.’ He looks at the audience and says, ‘No writing after sunset. I go to sleep around 10pm. That is all.’

Haruki said he found that writing his stories in Japanese was complicated because of the many words he knew, so he wrote in English to keep his writing simple and clear. ‘I can be anybody I want. When I write, I become the protagonist in my imagination. All my novels are based completely on fiction. Except one book I wrote after some friends committed suicide.’ He pauses for a long time while the audience waits in silence, as if holding their breath. ‘It’s all fiction.’

With ten minutes remaining, a young Japanese man enters with a glow on his face. I rise to show him a seat with a puzzled expression on my face. ‘I’ll just stand here,’ he whispers. I leave to purchase a book by Murakami. I return after the crowds and Haruki have dispersed and find the man standing in the same place, hungrily searching the stage. I ask why he came in so late. ‘I couldn’t get a ticket so I waited outside until they let me in.’

I’ve started reading his third book titled A Wild Sheep Chase, which was the first to be translated into English. In the first few chapters, I was struck by his descriptions, phrases and style. I caught myself laughing out loud or simply stopping to reflect on what I had read. Haruki Murakami has a new fan to join his millions.

By Aroha Bentson

1 Comment

  1. Kyla says

    Hi Aroha,
    The writing must have been obscured on his T.shirt – the Herald reported that Haruki’s T-shirt read “”Keep Calm and Read Murakami” below a picture of a cat.”

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