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Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami review – a quiet panic

By M John Harrison

menA quiet panic afflicts the male characters in Hemingway’s 1927 collection Men Without Women, that touchstone in the development of both Hemingwayism and the short story. Men should never put themselves in the position where they can lose someone, a bereaved Italian soldier warns Hemingway’s long-running protagonist Nick Adams: instead, a man “should find things he cannot lose”. Ninety years later, Haruki Murakami’s men without women have come to the same conclusion, polishing it into a postmodern lifestyle.

Kafuko, a middle-aged character actor, used to be married. Throughout their life together, his wife had affairs, but he loved her, and though it was painful – “his heart was torn and his insides were bleeding” – he never dared ask her what deficiency she was trying to make up for in their relationship; now it’s too late. In another story, jazz fan Kino blunders in on his wife having sex with his best friend and, apparently more embarrassed than wounded, decides to begin life again as a bar owner in another part of town. He equips the perfect establishment, then sits in it playing his favourite albums and waiting for his first customer, a policy guaranteed to draw in spirits as unquietly defeated as himself. Read more

Source: The Guardian

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‘Killing Commendatore’: Murakami’s latest lacks inspired touch of earlier works

By Daniel Morales

Haruki Murakami has lost his magic.

After two consecutive novels written in the third person (2009’s “1Q84” and 2013’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”), Murakami has returned to first-person narration with his latest novel, “Kishidancho Goroshi” (“Killing Commendatore”), published in Japan and so far only in Japanese, on Feb. 24. In it, he is unable to capture the same energy of the wry, poignant protagonists that drove his books in the 1980s and ’90s.

The novel relates the story of an unnamed 36-year-old portrait artist living in Tokyo. When his wife, Yuzu, suddenly wants a divorce and admits she’s been seeing someone else, he clears his schedule and goes on a month-long road trip to Hokkaido and Tohoku before settling in a house on the top of a mountain in rural Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he plans to paint for himself for the first time in years rather than taking portrait work. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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What to prepare for when you’re expecting one of Murakami’s mammoths

By Daniel Morales

Haruki Murakami has put scientists to shame. Harvard geneticists recently announced that they are two years away from bringing the wooly mammoth back from extinction, while Murakami is releasing his latest mammoth tonight: His novel “Kishidancho Goroshi” will be published in two 500-page volumes via Shinchosha and given the English title “Killing Commendatore,” according to the publisher’s website.

Shinchosha has highlighted the fact that this is the 68-year-old Murakami’s first honkakuteki (“full-fledged”) novel in seven years since 2009’s “1Q84,” although he has kept busy in the interim. Murakami published the shorter “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” in 2013 with publisher Bungeishunju, and a collection of short stories titled “Men Without Women” in 2014, so he likely put his most recent work together in three short years.

What should readers be expecting with this new release? Ever since spoilers leaked for 2002’s “Kafka on the Shore,” Murakami has kept plot details a tight secret, but as a writer he has several tendencies. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Swati Sengupta

By Aminah Sheikh

swatisengupta

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I have stories to tell. Because I want to tell these stories in a particular way. Some characters, and a vague, blurry indication of their predicament just pop up inside my head and I have no idea how they got there. Together, my characters and I, we embark on this journey to find out. This entire process – unpleasant at times but mostly exciting – provides me with the rush of air that keeps me going.

Sometimes though, I meet my characters in the real world. I may have heard about them from someone, so I go and meet them and find out their stories. I am talking about my non-fiction and reportage work here.

Basically, I am quiet, introverted and a loner. There’s silence all around me. Writing helps me to survive because I can’t talk much. I like to dwell in my own world in the company of my books, very few people I can relate to, and, the only way I am able to give vent to what’s buzzing inside my head is through the written words – whether it is published or what remains in the closet.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My recent book, Out of War (non-fiction), published by Speaking Tiger Books, is about the narratives of surrendered CPI (Maoist) cadres. I spent two years travelling through different parts of India – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. I located them, talked to them for hours, and I’ve remained in touch with many for four years now. I tried to understand their lives and stories. In my book, I look at the Maoist movement, its successes and failures, the passions and sacrifices, through the struggles of individuals – their individual needs, personal longings, sufferings and self-respect.

How do these foot-soldiers themselves view the Maoist movement? Is the movement free from hierarchies and compromise? Are the soldiers free to visit their parents, partners, children? What about those that trust the police with the promise of a safe life and opt out? I visited their homes, heard their stories – stories of abuse, poverty, suffering, hurt, deceit, joy, love…

I worked hard to get these stories. The research was also emotionally taxing for me. It wrung out all my energy. These people and their stories deeply influenced me. Now I know why people turn to the Maoists for support, I know why they become Maoist cadres.

Professionally, I’ve achieved only that much – I’ve written the book, pouring my heart into it.

But personally, I’ve achieved much more. Without expecting to. It was incidental. There was a time when I worked full-time with a reputed newspaper, earned a fairly decent salary and felt happy about certain material comforts. I quit my job to write this book, but the cravings for material things had remained. Bit by bit, in the last four years that I worked on this book, the attachment to material things has gone, and I hope for good.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Daryl Qilin Yam

By Aminah Sheikh

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Because eventually we will all be reduced to nothing – and that is something I refuse to accept, or believe.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Epigram Books released my first novel, Kappa Quartet, in September 2016. It was a conscious effort on my part, I believe, to have my first novel encapsulate who I was/am as a writer. For instance I believe in the essential premise of irrealism – that a gap exists between the infinite possibilities of the universe and the limited ability of our consciousness to perceive or understand it – and that a writer of fiction really shouldn’t be viewed as an oracle, or a sage, or provider of solutions. But I did, on a basic level, want to explore the various ways in which people learn to live and cope with feelings of emptiness; it was the baseline on which I built my stories and characters for the novel.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

As an observer of the world I believe in immanence; as a member of human society I believe in interconnectivity, diversity, and the power of shared experience; as a craftsman of words I lean towards simplicity, a lightness of touch, and a good clip, a steady pace.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, and Haruki Murakami. And I will always be in awe of Stephanie Ye, David Mitchell, and Yoko Ogawa.

The only dead person I will credit as a favourite is Willa Cather, for Death Comes for the Archbishop.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

It’ll have to be my current project. Titled Lovelier, it’s a book-length project that intertwines poetry with short stories to tell a complete but broken tale about a cast of millennials. They’re creative, ambitious, and yet constantly prone to failure, and so I adore them. I could have gone with a simpler structure, of course – I could have gone with one or the other, poetry or prose – but that’s just me. The pieces are all there, and I’m still waiting on the decision to cut half of it away or keep them all.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jayanthi Sankar

By Aminah Sheikh

jayanthi.jpgLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

As is the case with most of us, constant inner exploration with strings and strings of questions ushers me towards the world of fiction, I suppose. And that subsequently widens my imagination more and more.

Fiction always fascinates me, both to read and to write. For me, it is like living one life in reality but tens of thousands in the fictional space.

I write for the creative experience itself more than the politics in, out of and behind the issues although I do appreciate and enjoy them all while reading others’ works. I’ve found myself narrating mostly with an anthropological approach but the characterization and dialogues in my fiction certainly don’t shy away from the political side of the issue. I let them be as political as required. So, naturally I’ve never believed in creating an ideal world through fiction nor have I ever tried to give any solutions to the issue. The characters take my stories forward. This could be one of the reasons for readers and critics’ ‘author is absent in the narration’ experience and comments.

Like I always say it is the creative experience that I always long for that has been helping me evolve spiritually, the person that I am and will be. It’s one of the important byproducts of my reading and writing fiction for twenty two years.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

With only two or three stories left to be written, ‘Dangling Gandhi and other short stories’ in English, is forming decently well. Although few of them talk of the contemporary issues in Singapore, some of the important stories transcend beyond eras and geographies. Thus the weaves, I hope, would subtly raise many intricate questions on several social issues of not just the modern multicultural societies and human migrations in this shrunken world, but also of the colonial India, Malaya and Singapore.

Zafar Anjum, the publisher cum writer with such a beautiful theme of ‘empowering and connecting Asian readers and writers, everywhere’, has been gracious to have launched ‘Horizon Afar and other Tamil short stories’ of mine, the second of its kind, at SILF16 at Kishanganj. How well he knows about the role of translation in filling the gaps and also in cultural sharing. I owe it very much also to the earnest and enthusiastic translator and writer P.Muralidharan of Chennai, and the editor of the book for her help in improving the text.

It may sound too ambitious or a little pre mature to say I wish to write a novel based on my transit experience at Delhi amidst the first week of demonetization woes, the SILF16 (Seemanchal International Literary Festival 2016), the town of Kishanganj, Bagdogra, Darjeeling but I hope some creative magic really happens.

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‘Absolutely on Music’: Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa sit down to talk — and listen

By David Cozy

A fan, knowledgeable about an art form in the way that only obsessive fans are, in conversation with a master practitioner of the art in question — that’s what Haruki Murakami and conductor Seiji Ozawa have given us in “Absolutely on Music,” a series of transcribed conversations between the two artists. The combination — fan and master; novelist and musician — is ideal. Murakami is conversant enough with music that the questions he asks Ozawa are intelligent and informed, but since he is a nonmusician who, by his own admission, can barely read a score, the questions are imbued with just enough ignorance of the musician’s craft that they elicit answers that will be enlightening to those of us who may be fans, or even musicians, but are not as well versed as Murakami, let alone a professional like Ozawa. Read more

Source: Japan Times

 

 


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Haruki Murakami cautions against excluding outsiders

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Haruki Murakami has warned that “no matter how high a wall we build to keep intruders out, no matter how strictly we exclude outsiders, no matter how much we rewrite history to suit us, we just end up damaging and hurting ourselves”.

Speaking as he received the Hans Christian Andersen literature award, the Japanese novelist said that “just as all people have shadows, every society and nation, too, has shadows”, and “if there are bright, shining aspects, there will definitely be a counterbalancing dark side. If there’s a positive, there will surely be a negative on the reverse side.”

“At times we tend to avert our eyes from the shadow, those negative parts. Or else try to forcibly eliminate those aspects. Because people want to avoid, as much as possible, looking at their own dark sides, their negative qualities. But in order for a statue to appear solid and three-dimensional, you need to have shadows. Do away with shadows and all you end up with is a flat illusion. Light that doesn’t generate shadows is not true light,” said the novelist. Read more


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Translated book sales are up, but Britain is still cut off from foreign literature

Today is International Translation Day. Look at any bookshop bestseller shelf in the UK and you’ll see translated names everywhere: Elena Ferrante, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Haruki Murakami, Swedish names all over crime fiction. Recent sales figures seem to suggest that the British public has steadily become more open to European and international authors: according to Nielsen, which undertook research for the International Man Booker prize this year, the number of translated books bought in Britain increased by an astounding 96% between 2001 and 2015. Translated fiction sells better, overall, than English literary fiction and made up 7% of all UK fiction sales in 2015.

But when you examine what is translated into English, only 1.5% of all books published in the UK are translations. Compare that to Germany (a bigger book market than the UK), France or Italy, where translated fiction is 12.28%, 15.9% and 19.7% of the respective markets, according to a 2015 study by Literature Across Frontiers. Read more

 


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Murakami wins literature prize

Haruki MurakamiNovelist Haruki Murakami on Tuesday won the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, a prize in Denmark whose past laureates include J.K. Rowling and Salman Rushdie.

The award was founded in 2007, named after the well-known Danish children’s literature author. It is unrelated to the Hans Christian Andersen Award, another international recognition awarded to authors and illustrators of children’s books.

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