Murakami: I’m a literary outcast in Japan

Haruki Murakami: ‘I’m an outcast of the Japanese literary world. Critics, writers, many of them don’t like me’, says the cult novelist

Haruki MurakamiAsked to name some of his favourite writers working today, Murakami enthuses about Kazuo Ishiguro (“I think he dedicates himself to the writing … When he’s not writing he goes around the world, but when he’s writing he goes nowhere”), Cormac McCarthy (“always riveting”), and the Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, whom he is currently translating into Japanese from English (“He’s a kind of surrealistic writer, very strange novels. I think that’s serious literature”). As he has translated Raymond Chandler, I ask him about modern crime writers too. “I like Lee Child,” he announces decisively, and laughs. So do I, I say. “Oh you like him? That’s good! So far I have read 10 of them.” What do you like about them? He moves his hands in the air as though running his fingers over an invisible piano keyboard, and grins. “Everything’s the same!”

Murakami doesn’t read many of his Japanese contemporaries. Does he feel detached from his home scene? “It’s a touchy topic,” he says, chuckling. “I’m a kind of outcast of the Japanese literary world. I have my own readers … But critics, writers, many of them don’t like me.” Why is that? “I have no idea! I have been writing for 35 years and from the beginning up to now the situation’s almost the same. I’m kind of an ugly duckling. Always the duckling, never the swan.

“But I think, in a sense, we are playing different games,” he continues. “I began to think that way. It’s very similar, but the rules are different. The equipment’s different, and the fields are different. Like tennis and squash. ” Does he think he’d be accepted if he won the Nobel prize, as many people now expect will happen? “Uh, I don’t want to speculate,” he says, and laughs. “That’s a very risky topic. Maybe I would be hanged from a lamppost, I don’t know!”

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