Ryu Murakami: Stoking rage in Japan


Ryu murakamiJapan is a safe, polite society in which occasionally hyper-violent crimes are committed that shock the world. They do not surprise one of its best-known authors, whose bleak novels brim with brutality. Interview by David Pilling in the FT
Rage. Violence. Churning resentment beneath the pond-like surface. This is the territory of Ryu Murakami, one of Japan’s most celebrated novelists. Murakami’s protagonists are young perpetrators of casual violence or dropouts unmoved by Japan’s social norms.
Some, such as the anti-hero of Piercing (1994), who stands over his baby daughter’s crib with an ice pick wondering what would happen if he killed her, are psychologically dislodged. Others are rebels – once in a while with a cause. One keeps a crocodile in her Tokyo apartment. Another uses poisonous bugs as weapons. Though they often have back stories of childhood abuse or social deprivation, Murakami’s heroes – for there is usually some underlying sympathy – are rarely more than cardboard thin. His novels share something with the schlock violence and sexual explicitness of cartoons devoured by Japanese teenagers and adults alike: fantasies of blood and semen.

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