When I first spied Tony Takitani on a record store shelf it was the words emblazoned upon the cover “from the story by HARUKI MURAKAMI” which caught my attention. In 2000, my fascination with Japan and its culture in mind (I had been set to go to Yokohama during those summer months; fate as it transpired took me on a different road) my parents gave me Norwegian Wood, written by the then lesser- known Japanese author. Little did they know the literary revolution they were bringing into my life. It was like nothing I’d read before, and only an encounter with  Beckett’s Endgame a short period after came close to resembling the strange, paradoxical feeling upon completion of utter disorientation coupled with beautiful, poetic fulfilment. I began to see the ‘Murakami’ in things: a sort of ‘back-to- front’ process when what I was discovering in actuality, were the writer’s influences. (I recall a similar sort of experience when, viewing Voyage dans la Lune in French class I could think only of the Smashing Pumpkins, as if indignant that Meliès preceded the age of MTV)  In any case, it’s easy to see the ‘Murakami’, or more accurately find the contributing influences to Murakami’s writing in many 20th century philosophical, literary and artistic movements. From Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett style hard- boiled fiction and Film Noir, to the Beat Generation, Existentialism, Surrealism and Western pop culture. However, despite this broad mélange of inspiration, at the heart of Murakami’s work is something inimitably Japanese. You can’t quite put your finger on it- it’s that ‘je ne sais quoi’ aspect of his story-telling which invokes a sense of ‘nonchalance’ – but this suggests a lack of concern, or laziness…and that’s not it, for Murakami’s is a deft art. Words don’t rush from the page to reach you in a whir of statement and drama in a Murakami novel. Instead they seem to share the same space like there was never a place more natural for them to be. Banal activities like cooking pasta acquire meditative purpose and like a Zen kōan his work begs for the suspension of conceptual thought in order for its truth to ‘flow’. Allow this to happen, and the return is something profound. Read the rest of this entry »