If you are a fan of Haruki Murakmi — and you'd be one of many, considering Murakami has been translated into more than 50 languages and is a critically acclaimed author worldwide — then 2014 was a fantastic year for you and your bookshelf. Readers were not only treated to the U.S. release of his novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage in August, but a second Murakami book, the illustrated novella The Strange Library, debuted, too. It was worth getting giddy over.
Fans probably didn't think things could get any better for their TBR piles, but then The New Yorker published two translated stories from Murakami's latest collection of short fiction, Men Without Women (or in Japanese, Onna no Inai Otokotachi) that were previously only available in Japanese.
But wait! January 2015 brought “Murakami-san no tokoro,” or "Mr. Murakami's Place," the author's advice column. And just three weeks ago, the English translation of "Kino," another short story from Men Without Women, became available via The New Yorker. Things just keep getting better.
If you are an avid reader of Murakami, there are certain things you know to be true, and certain things you will be reminded of when poring over all of his new material. You will once again enter the strange world of magical realism where you won't be able to rely on any genre or plot norms to get you from one chapter to the next. You will have a love/hate relationship with all of the (hopeless, lonely) main characters. You'll begin to question your sanity and your reality, and that is only the beginning, because here are 9 things that only Haruki Murakmi fans know to be true:
Adolescence Is Brutal, And Some Scars Stay With You For Life
Murakmi's characters are layered and complex, sometimes beyond their own awareness, but one thing is always true: childhood has left its mark. Whether it was from something dramatic like losing a close friend to suicide or watching a neighbor get swallowed by the waves in a tsunami, or whether it was something more common, like being abandoned by your best mates or having a broken heart, Murakami has covered just about every phase of coming of age. Through his characters, he shows how challenging the transition from childhood to adulthood is, and what from our past stays with us and shapes us.
Magic Is Real And In Everyday Life
Murakami's novels' genres range from magical realism to science fiction to surrealism, but the fact remains: there is magic in each world. It might come in the form of a talking Sheep Man or a poor aunt who appears on your back, but you are sure to find a bit of the fantastic in your ordinary life, even if you don't realize it. Just accept it.
There Is A Fine Line Between This Reality And The Next
Are you awake, are you in a dream, did you travel through some sort of portal at the bottom of a well? These are all valid questions if you're in a Murakami book, where a character can be searching for a lost cat one moment, and walking through hotel walls the next. He writes somewhere in between this world and the next, and even after you close the book, you find yourself wondering: is this real life?
Beware Of ALL Incoming Phone Calls
In a world with no caller ID, Murakami readers know to answer every phone call with caution. It could be a long lost lover, a mysterious voice from another reality, a friend's ex-girlfriend — whoever it is, the sure truth is that something strange will follow, including but not limited to some strange phone sex followed by lucid dreaming. No one ever calls just to catch up anymore.
Most Of The Time, There Is No Such Thing As A "Happy Ending"
That doesn't necessarily mean that there are always unhappy endings, but nothing is ever wrapped up neatly like a Disney fairytale. Tragedy strikes, people break up, and questions go unanswered. This doesn't make Murakami's books less enjoyable, but instead, makes them all the more haunting and lasting.
Sex Is... Complicated, To Say The Least
Murakami is infamous for his "bad sex scenes," but the reality is that sex can be, well, weird sometimes, what with ears looking like vaginas and all. Emotions run high and body fluids run rampant, even in your dreams, and things just get plain messy. Worth it, most of the time, but messy.
People Will Disappear On You
Wives, best friends, college roommates — no one is safe in the world of a Murakami novel. Some people might run away, others might get kidnapped by their evil brothers, and some might flee to avoid another awkward sexual encounter. Whatever the case may be, you can bet that someone is bound to leave without saying goodbye.
Music Is Essential To Life
Whether it's the Beatles or Mozart, Art Blakely or Elvis, you can hear a soundtrack playing in the background of all of Murakami's novels. His characters share his personal passion for music and interact with it throughout the books, whether they are listening to radio at home or exchanging records on the dorm room floor or getting a cold beer at a piano bar. The music helps characters sleep or think, set the mood for romance, and even jogs long forgotten memories. Some songs and bands even served as title inspirations, such as Norwegian Wood.
You Can Be Alone Without Being Lonely, And You Can Be Lonely Without Being Alone
The protagonist in many of Murakami's novels is a solitary younger man. Some of them live alone and keep to themselves, but they don't feel upset or burdened by it. They enjoy solitude and are comfortable passing the time without company. There are other characters in their lives, however, that are surrounded by family or coworkers or lovers, yet they are completely disconnected and companionless. Murakami expresses the ability to be by oneself without feeling lonely, while revealing that just because someone is not by themselves, it doesn't mean they are hopelessly isolated from those around them.
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