Murakami in 2020

December 31, 2020 By mk

In 2020, Murakami published five books in Japan; two essays, one short stories collection and two translations. Considering his age of 71, he is impressively productive.

He also saved the readers and the book industries at the time of pandemic by the way that only he could do in 2020; he published the five books from four publishers and saved bookshops over the country.

[Essays] Abandoning a Cat -What I Talk About When I Talk About My Father, published on April 23, 2020, by Bungei Shunju

The major part of the book was that published last year on the magazine, and The New Yorker translated;

Message from the author:
I had been thinking for a long time that I would have to write about my late father, but the years passed without me being able to start. Writing about my relatives was quite a daunting task (at least for me), and I couldn’t figure out how and where to start. However, I suddenly remembered when my father and I went to abandon the cat, and when I started writing from there, the writing came out much more easily and naturally than I expected.

In this article, I wanted to write about how much war can change the life and mind of a single person, an ordinary citizen. And as a result, here I am. But I didn’t want to write it as a so-called “message”. I just wanted to show it quietly, as a personal fact. It’s a small book with a special meaning for me, and I hope that people of all ages will read it in different ways.

[Essays] Murakami-T; My favourite T-shirts, published on June 4, 2020, by Magazine House

The 18 essays on 108 T-Shirts originally written for the Japanese magazine “Popeye” in 2018-2020.

In Japan, the number “108” reminds the number of the chime of a bell in Buddhist temple at new year’s eve. Each of 108 rings represents one of 108 earthly temptations (Bonnō) a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. It also reminds the old custom to send the old stuff (clothes, books, or any other consumer goods) off from the real world (in other words, getting rid of them). There is no mention on that though.

[Short Stories] First Person Singular, published on July 18, 2020, by Shinchosha

It is the collection of eight stories which welcomes the readers to Murakami world. Let me share the publisher’s sales copy which was quite impressive, with deep affection and commitment to the book.

The first person singular is a “single eye” that cuts out a slice of the world. But as the number of slices increases, the “single eye” becomes an endlessly intertwined “compound eye”. And there, I will no longer be me, and, yes, you will no longer be you. What happened and what didn’t happen there? Welcome to the world of the “first person singular.

Notice was posted at the bookshops all over the country
Bookshops highly welcomed the release of the new book after the lock-down.
His books saved the bookshops which are damaged due to Covid lock-down

[Translation] Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, published on April 27, 2020, by Shinchosha

Murakami wrote when he started translation work 40 years ago almost the same time he began to write a novel. He had a list of the stories that he would have liked to translate by himself sometime in the future when he would be capable of doing that and this is the last one in the list.

On the radio show in October, Murakami read a letter from a hostel owner who was in a difficult time as many in the hospitality industry due to Covid and sent her the book with his signature.

The name of her hostel is “Iruka (Dolphine) Hostel” named after the Dolophine hotel from A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. Needless to say, she is a big fan of Murakami and really happy to post the signed book to Twitter;

The hostel is in Toyama, 350 km (220 miles) north west of Tokyo
Address:〒930-0857, Iruka Hostel, 2/F Wohlfahrt-Toyama, 8-1 Okuda-Shinmachi, Toyama-city, Toyama, Japan Tel:+81-(0)76-471-7441

[Translation] John Grisham’s Camino Island, published on October 7, 2020, by Chuo-Koron-Shinsha

Murakami found this novel featuring a bookshop owner as a protagonist at a bookshop in Poland and made a lucky charm for the bookshop owners in Japan by translating it on this year of difficulty.

Camino Island is a crime fiction thriller novel featuring the theft of rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Library at Princeton University. For fans in Japan, it reminds the past two topics around Murakami;

(1) Murakami himself was a writing fellow at Princeton University in 1991-93 and was awarded an honorary degree in 2008. So that he knows the setting place very well.

(2) In 2006, Murakami wrote an essay “Death and life of an editor” concerning the incident that an editor illegally had sold Murakami’s hand-written manuscript of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Ice Palace that Murakami translated in 1980. The editor was one of Murakami’s Jazz bar guests and supported Murakami’s talent in early days, but, one day, totally disconnected and started to attack Murakami, and died in 2003. It is said that the relation between the editor, who wished to be an author himself, and Murakami was like that of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Anyway, the publisher that the editor had belonged publicly apologized on the scandal.

The publisher was Chuo-Koron-Shinsha: Murakami chose this company to publish Camino Island with a Japanese title of “A Great Gatsby Chase”. The facts leave an unwritten reverberation that Murakami never mentioned.

In 2020, Murakami hosted radio show nine times. “The Stay Home Special” recorded at his home and broadcasted on May 22, was awarded as “The Best Radio Entertainment Program” by Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association.

He will conclude 2020 by hosting “New Year’s Eve radio special live – Cow’s Slope 21” from 11 PM of New Year’s Eve to 1 AM of New Year’s Day with special guests of his (athletic) running mate, Dr Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel winner in Physiology and Juichi Yamagiwa, anthropologist and ex-dean of Kyoto University.

Wishing a Happy New Year, and the pandemic will end soon in 2021!