Why Murakami will always be my favourite novelist

7 mins read

It was in 2019, in winter time that I first heard of Haruki Murakami, not knowing that, for the rest of my life, his novels would drastically shape the way I read fiction.

I started building a “relationship” towards this author’s novels when I was about nineteen years of age. At first, I was a tad skeptical, not having read anything from a Japanese author before, I decided to try Kafka on the Shore that my friend had recommended a couple of times. At that time, our new Maths teacher was, and I know that still is (obsessions with books just don’t go away, do they?), a big fan of Murakami. We chatted a little bit about his persona and it was settled, I had to read Murakami!

The not-like-other authors

Do you happen to know the feeling of reading a book from an author and their writing style is so unique, distinctive, and different from what you have read so far? Simply put, you know you’d recognize their writing even on a shopping list written by them? That is Murakami to me.

Whenever someone asks me: “What do you like about him so much?” I always say: “ The fact that he gives you everything and introduces you to everyone.” To my mind, the reason why Murakami’s characters are likeable are their unexceptional lives, at least to a certain point unexceptional. They deal with problems us real people encounter – cheating, death, love, confusion, passions and desperation – sounds familiar? These, and a plethora of other, feelings are just a small amount of what Murakami’s novels actually “taste” like. You are always given a charachter that you can easily and effortlesly relate to.

Image Credit: The New Yorker

Norwegian Wood

The above-mentioned Kafka on the Shore was nothing like the other novels I was reading at that time. Never before had I shut a book so many times just to stare at a blank wall to process the story I was being introduced to. However, a book I would actually like to introduce you to in this article is the third novel I read from him in 2020, Norwegian Wood, probably my most favourite of his novels. Hopefully this article won’t slip into an appreciation ode to Murakami. In case you were wondering, there is a reference to the Beatles’s song of the same name. It has been a couple of years since I read it last, so my apologies if my references to the story won’t be coming across as clearly as I wish.

Norwegian Wood was first published in 1987 and, unsurprisingly to me and certainly a number of other Murakami fans, the book became a major hit among young readers straight away. The story takes place in Japan, set in the 1960s where we meet Toru Watanabe, the protagonist, for the first time as he is listening to, you’ve guessed it, the Norwegian Wood by the Beatles.

This song brings out a myriad of memories from Toru’s young years when he became very close with two women, the pretty but troubled Naoko, and Midori, the carefree one. Toru recalls the times of the student revolution. He decides to move to Tokyo with the intentions of starting something new and also for his further study experience. He makes such a move in order to try to run away from his very sad past experiences with his best friend Kizuki, who committed suicide.

The only person who feels as shattered as Toru is Naoko, Kizuki’s then girlfriend with whom Toru has been in love. To all of this the story of Midori is added, a young sweet bubbly girl who also, just like everyone else fights her own demons. We could say that it is a coming-of-age drama full of darkness, grief, and melancholy but, funnily enough, somehow provides peace at the same time.

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

But why Murakami?

What makes it so special? I would say that there is as many reasons to deem this novel remarkable as there are people. So let me at least tell you about my reason. What makes me come back again and again and read more of Murakami’s work are the characters in them. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Let me be more specific then – usually what attracts to them are their flaws.

See, despite most of the novels containing traits of magical realism (not Norwegian Wood, though) I always feel grounded and engaged thanks to the characters’ past mistakes, present troubles and future hopes. However, one thing I need to mention is that Murakami might not be the best fit for those who do not enjoy “open endings.” What I mean is that in his novels we are never given a proper “ending” let alone a happy-end. I personally never minded that, for to conclude such an intense story fully as the one of Toru, for instance, would be between a rock and a hard place.

So far, I haven’t met a single person who would not agree that Murakami’s books are damn addictive. However, despite some people not actually enjoying Murakami’s intense narrative, they cannot deny that the way they read books has not been changed at least a little bit since they got to read Murakami. So, the moral of this article? Stop putting Murakami off and get your hand on one of his works, you won’t regret it! And if all that I have just mentioned did not succeed in convincing you, let me just add: Murakami is a passionate cat lover!

Featured image source: Anna Nova

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