Famous for his fantastical quirky twists which he applies to his stories mundane, often depressive, characters, Haruki Murakami has become one of the most celebrated and renowned writers of modern day fiction. The Kyoto born writer has fashioned a style that is easy to praise yet near impossible to duplicate.
Although he has often commented that his characters are not autobiographical, his first release, Norwegian Wood certainly contains at least elements of the writer’s childhood, woven into the patchwork of the characters tragic lives.
It reads like a novel created by a seasoned writer who has qualified to write such a mature novel through experience, yet Norwegian Wood still stands as one of his most accomplished works.
The world Murkami created in Norwegian Wood is one of nostalgia and reflection.
The world Murkami created in Norwegian Wood is one of nostalgia and reflection. After hearing The Beatles‘ song which he adored when younger, a middle aged man is transported back, and as narrator reflects on his tumultuous childhood.
Although the characters do not always maintain a degree of normality in their personalities and actions, the theme of the book is grounded with realism. This style proved successful, but Marukami felt the need to push the boundaries of his fictional realities and has continued to do so in each of his novels to date.
Living in the Past
As diverse as his novels are, most of them share common elements which again suggests Murakami injects his own personal passions and interests into his characters and their lives. Possibly sourced from his time away from his homeland (he left Japan for almost a decade, returning in ‘95), Murakami will usually create characters that have a passion for music, especially classical and mainstream Western pop such as The Beatles. Although he maintains the authenticity of Japanese life, his appreciation for Western art is always apparent.
Now in his sixties Murakami has consistently written about the stresses and angst of adolescent life. His male lead characters are often lonely, detached individuals either looking for their missing pieces or content to be without them. His female characters on the other hand are either immensely beautiful or rich in personality.
Murakami evades the idea that his work is autobiographical…
He has a great appreciation for the female form and sexual themes are central to his narratives. Both male and female characters often have a particular wonderment or confusion over their sexual desires. In some cases they are completely unwilling to share their body with anyone else due to unsavoury experiences they have had in the past.
Murakami evades the idea that his work is autobiographical, but his characters would suggest that, as many of them look back at their own years of youth, Murakami does so by utilising these younger characters.
Elusive Sheep and Criminal Monkeys
Many Murakami fans would agree that the most intriguing aspect of his novels is the quirky and fantastical characters which act as catalysts for the human characters’ journeys.
From planet saving frogs to criminal monkeys and elusive sheep with hidden agendas, they all fit beautifully into worlds which are portrayed so convincingly you feel as if you could walk straight into them and the characters wouldn’t bat an eye-lid.
…idolised for his ability to merge realism with fantasy so seamlessly.
Many novelists find it hard to master a single genre, but Murakami often successfully moulds two into one, allowing the reader to at first sympathise and then connect with his characters and their personal struggles before sending both into a whirlwind of suspense and mystery.
For a man who prefers to write short stories, commenting that the forming of a novel can be chore-like, he makes it look pretty easy. If not the creator of a sub-genre then surely the leader of its success, Murakami will forever be idolised for his ability to merge realism with fantasy so seamlessly.
Images courtesy of Haruki Murakami