Haruki Murakami talks about his library plan, writing, music | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami poses for photographers during a press conference at Waseda University in Tokyo Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Image: AP/Eugene Hoshiko
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami poses for photographers during a press conference at Waseda University in Tokyo Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Image: AP/Eugene Hoshiko

TOKYO — Haruki Murakami is planning an archive at his Japanese alma mater that will include drafts of his best-selling novels, his translation work and his massive collection of music.

Murakami, 69, began writing after graduating from Waseda University in 1975, and his latest novel, “Killing Commendatore,” recently hit U.S. bookstores.

Murakami said the archive and library project will develop as he contributes materials in the years to come and he wants to see it stimulate cultural exchanges. The writer announced the plan Sunday at his first news conference in his home country in 37 years. Here are some of his comments from the event:

Q: What is the Murakami Library going to be like?

A: I hope this (library) would become a place of open international exchanges for literature and culture. And I would definitely want to create a room where we can hold seminars for such exchanges. I also hope to eventually set up a scholarship, which would be perfect. And if I’m allowed to wish even more, I also hope to create a space that functions as a study where my record collection and books are stored. It would be wonderful if we get to play records for concerts. In my study, I have my own space, such as a collection of records, audio equipment and some books. The idea (for the library) is to create an atmosphere like that, not to create a replica of my study. I believe a college campus should have an alternative place that you can drop by. I would like to get involved actively and cooperate if there is a chance, though I’m getting rather old so I’m not sure how much I get to do.

Q: What is the significance of literature today?

A: I believe the main power of novels is narratives. If a narrative has enough power to come straight into your heart, then that can be convertible beyond language barriers. I believe novels have an internal power of making breakthroughs by using stories as their strength. … And I’d be happy if there are people, regardless of their age, who pursue such efforts. I think it would be difficult to develop such strengths if you only stay in a single culture.

Q: Is music inseparable to your stories?

A: I wake up at 4 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. in the morning and start working. The night before I choose records that I plan to listen to the next day, like I used to put next to my pillow what to take to an elementary school outing. I write listening to the music, and it’s my pleasure.

Q: What do foreign books and translation mean to you?

A: I started reading foreign literature as a teenager. It was like opening a window and breathing in fresh air, or seeing different scenery. Because my parents both specialized in Japanese literature, I also wanted to do something different. I extremely enjoy translation, the process of converting one language to another, and I still like it very much. Even today I don’t consider translation as work, it’s more like my hobby. Translation, however, has been very useful for writing novels. Awareness that a language is exchangeable could make a difference as to what I write. It’s not that I try to write sentences that are easier to translate, but I feel differently just with the awareness that this can be converted and read by people in different languages. CC

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