‘I want to open a window in their souls’: Haruki Murakami on the power of writing simply


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My first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, published in 1979, is fewer than 200 pages long. Yet it took many months and much effort to complete. Part of the reason, of course, was the limited time I had to work on it. I ran a jazz cafe, and I spent my 20s laboring from morning to night to pay off debts. But the real problem was that I hadn’t a clue how to write a novel. To tell the truth, although I had been absorbed in reading all kinds of stuff – my favorites being translations of Russian novels and English-language paperbacks – I had never read modern Japanese novels (of the “serious” variety) in any concerted way. Thus I had no idea what kind of Japanese literature was being read at the time or how I should write fiction in Japanese.

For several months, I operated on pure guesswork, adopting what seemed to be a likely style and running with it, but when I read through the result I was far from impressed. “Good grief,” I moaned, “this is hopeless.” What I had written seemed to fulfill the formal requirements of a novel, yet it was rather boring and, as a whole, left me cold.

In retrospect, it was only natural that I was unable to produce a good novel. It was a big mistake to assume that a guy like me who had never written anything in his life could spin out something brilliant right off the bat. Maybe it had been a mistake to try to write something “novelistic” in the first place. “Give up trying to create something sophisticated,” I told myself. “Why not forget all those prescriptive ideas about ‘the novel’ and ‘literature’ and set down your feelings and thoughts as they come to you, freely, in a way that you like?”

While it was easy to talk about setting down one’s impressions freely, though, actually doing it wasn’t that simple. To make a fresh start, the first thing I had to do was ditch my stack of manuscript paper and my fountain pen. As long as they were sitting in front of me, what I was doing felt like “literature”. In their place, I pulled out my old Olivetti typewriter from the closet. Then, as an experiment, I decided to write the opening of my novel in English. What the hell, I figured. If I was going to do something unorthodox, why not go all the way?


https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/35ef97c7a69b9ce0eba4061881151edc6b4a845e/4_0_3334_2000/master/3334.jpg?width=1300&quality=85&dpr=1&s=none Illustration: Harriet Lee-Merrion/The Guardian



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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Don't Lose Hope
    Nov 23, 2022 @ 23:24:40

    I love Murakami’s writing! He’s also a very interesting interviewee.



    • Mohenjo
      Nov 24, 2022 @ 19:38:16

      Thanks, I hope more people read his work!



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