Murakami’s contributions to literature since his debut novel Hear the Wind Sing in 1979 have earned him global acclaim, an enigmatic status and a fat cabinet of prestigious awards, such as the 2006 Franz Kafka Prize and the 2009 Jerusalem Prize.
Murakami is considered a monolith of modern realism, surrealism and postmodernism. But, I feel it is unfair to shackle him to any genre. I will instead stand defiantly and proclaim aloud in the faces of any literary critic who cares to challenge my humble authority (garnered through fastidious and religious following of his work),
“Murakami IS a genre!”
Murakami is the demiurge of his own complex universe. Not a Tolkein-esque fantastical world, but a parallel reality entrenched in our own quotidian experience. This universe, although reminiscent of ours, is a baffling web of distorted metaphysics of the author’s own creation.
Though oblique, this recondite universe is not fully beyond our grasp. The protagonists are often uncomfortably human, despite the surreal circumstances they find themselves in. This results in a completely accessible and sensuous world through which the author manipulates his irresistible prose.
Murakami achieves this whilst ensuring the exclusivity of his universe. His novels are strategically placed windows which allow us no more than vanishing, breathless glimpses. This exclusivity amounts to the generation of a genre, which is not currently replicated in modern fiction.
When one reads Murakami, there is an impression that he is not just a writer, but rather, an eloquent vessel for the stories he unleashes on the public. In tandem with this sense of journalistic veracity is a stylistic prowess that can leave the reader bemused by the use of a single word. I have often felt like a mere plaything of Murakami’s, laid awake considering the impact of some seemingly irregular use of language, haunted as his fingers spread like a sexy cancer through my thoughts. Condemned to sleeplessness until I discover whether it was a signal for some upcoming ominous event or just the macabre sense of humour of the author. Condemned to continue my reading.
It is said of Coleridge that he agonised for days over the placement of a single word in his poems. If this is true, I’ll wager Murakami spends weeks considering which single word will have the most shattering effect on the reader.
Murakami insists on remaining in the universe he creates. Claiming that interface with the public on any level would despoil his carefully crafted world. He prefers to operate outside of the expectations of his salivating public.
By way of recommendations; I started in the deep end with the epic The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, which left me emotionally devastated, spiritually ravaged and ravenous for another immersion in his world. Sputnik Sweetheart however, presents an irresistible and accessible introduction to Murakami at an un-daunting 200 pages. For the braver amongst you, snatch a taste of The Trilogy Of The Rat, that should keep your mind-grapes busy.
Alternatively, there are several volumes of short stories available. However, I have often found the condensing of genius into a matter of pages is more bemusing than the feature-length novel. Reading time may be reduced, but expect to allot an age to deciphering the esoteric fables.
Overall, the reader can expect Whiskey, Jazz, and Lynchian dreamscapes, where it seems that neither reader, character, nor author have full control or understanding over the events that unravel.