Thursday, 12 September 2013

Kafka on the Shore

don't worry, I'm not reviewing this book. It may be my least favourite of those of Haruki Murakami I have read. Here is an interview with Murakami from 2004. If you did not know it was from 2004 you would know it was not from now, even if you didn't know that Kafka on the Shore, about which Murakami is being interviewed, was newly published then. You would know this because of technology. The Japanese have usually been ahead of Europe when it comes to technology, and here Murakami (who was born in 1949) refers to "video games".

All Murakami's books I have read are about memory, among other things. Perhaps most writing is. Murakami's only "realistic" novel (not sure that term really means anything) is "Norwegian Wood". I read it in English translation in 2011 and wrote about it here. If you read what I wrote you will notice that I mention my Japanese teacher from the time I was in Japan, in 1979 and 1980. I have never forgotten a conversation I had with that person (or have I?) in which he asked me what I thought happened at the end of the song "Norwegian Wood". I said the narrator burns the girl's house down. It seemed obvious to me. He said he thought perhaps I was right, and then talked about a friend of his who was passionate about the song, and who was a writer. He said his friend had quite a different understanding of the song. At the time Murakami was only just beginning to be published in Japan, and had not been translated. "Norwegian Wood" was published some years after this conversation took place. I had not heard of Murakami at the time, but much later, when I had, I remembered that conversation. I do not believe my teacher named Murakami during that conversation, and if he did I didn't remember the name, so it all came later. And of course the friend and writer my teacher was talking about could have been somebody different altogether. Maybe. I won't name my Japanese teacher, as he is doing something rather different these days and is eminent in his field: perhaps he would not care to be reminded, or for others to be reminded, of his teaching days on the hillside in Kamakura. He and Murakami are about the same age.

 I wrote a story called "Enoshima Mon Amour" based in part on my memories of those times. You'll be able to read it soon.

So. Read the interview I link to above. Murakami mentions Ross McDonald as the American detective writer he is keenest on (he has a big passion for the genre, and it shows in most of his work). I hadn't heard of Ross McDonald until - you're ahead of me - my Japanese teacher recommended him to me, saying he had been introduced to that writer by a friend (in Japanese it is ambiguous whether you mean "a" friend or "the friend I mentioned earlier in this conversation", you know by context what is being referred to, well, mostly) during that same conversation. I loved Ross McDonald's Lew Archer books, and read them all.

Well. Who knows?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning Murakami again - I keep meaning to read him and no will. Have just bought first two volumes of Henry Williamson's Flax of Dreams quartet - will report back.Had to be re-printed.

See Lovelace. Found it very upsetting both for the era and also the subject matter but it is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Just realsied your comment about Ross Macdonald. I met him - several times. I taught his daughter, - back in the mists of the 1980s.

If you are reading this, - I hope you are ok. That business after the Hamlet timed essay was wretched but you got through it and here's to you now wherever you are.