Haruki Murakami 4

Was born in Kyoto on 12 January 1949. He began writing at the age of 24. The impulse to do so first struck him, he says, during a baseball match, at the very moment when a famous player hit a home run. He went straight home and started to write. His first book, Hear the Wind Sing, was published in 1979 and won the Gunzou Shinjin Sho, an award for new writers. At that point he was running a jazz bar called Peter Cat in a quiet corner of Tokyo. In 1981, he started to write for a living and the following year published one of his most extraordinary novels, A Wild Sheep Chase, which bears all the Murakami hallmarks of superb writing, compelling plot, zany happenings and erotic moments. It was an extraordinary achievement for a relatively inexperienced writer, especially because it was strongly original in style and content. There was a three-year gap before the publication of his next work, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, his most metaphysical, and perhaps strangest, novel. Three years after that, in 1988, came the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance, Dance, Dance, but by this time his reputation as Japan’s most popular contemporary literary novelist was assured. This was achieved with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987 which sold four million copies in Japan alone. After Dance, Dance, Dance there was a four-year gap as he started a new chapter in his life, living and teaching in the US. South of the Border and West of the Sun then came in 1992; his collection of short stories The Elephant Vanishes was published in 1993; and finishing this burst of creativity was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, widely regarded as his masterpiece, in 1994. He returned to Japan in 1995 after the Kobe earthquake, but it was not until 1999 that his next novel, Sputnik Sweetheart, emerged. This is another gentle study of the isolated individual, a theme that runs as a thread through much of his fiction. after the quake, his intriguing collection of short stories centred around, but not in, the earthquake, came in 2002. And Kafka on the Shore, which saw a return to his quizzical, off-beat fantasy style, was published in 2004. With translations in other European languages, and a growing following on both sides of the Atlantic, Haruki Murakami’s standing as one of the leading international writers of our time is increasing, and makes audio versions essential.