Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers for his Western influences.
Murakami studied theater arts at Waseda University in Tokyo. His first job was in a record store (which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works). Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse (jazz bar, in the evening) "Peter Cat" in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife, Yoko. They ran the bar from 1974 until 1982. Many of his novels have musical themes and titles referring to classical music, for example, the three books comprising The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini's orchestral overture), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann), and The Bird-Catcher (a protagonist in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (from The Beach Boys), Norwegian Wood (after the Beatles' song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).
His initial success with Hear the Wind Sing encouraged him to keep writing. A year later he published Pinball, 1973, a sequel. In 1982 he published A Wild Sheep Chase, a critical success, which makes original use of fantastic elements and has a uniquely disconnected plot. Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, and A Wild Sheep Chase form the "Trilogy of the Rat" (a sequel, Dance, Dance, Dance, was written later but is not considered part of the series), centered on the same unnamed narrator and his friend, "the Rat". However, the first two novels are unpublished in English translation outside Japan, where an English edition with extensive translation notes was published as part of a series intended for English students. According to Murakami (Publishers Weekly, 1991), he considers his first two novels "weak", and was not eager to have them translated into English. A Wild Sheep Chase was "The first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."
In 1985 Murakami wrote Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a dreamlike fantasy which takes the magical elements in his work to a new extreme.
Murakami achieved a major breakthrough and national recognition in 1987 with the publication of Norwegian Wood, a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality. It sold millions of copies among Japanese youth, making Murakami something of a superstar in his native country (to his dismay). The book was printed in two separate volumes, sold together, so that the number of books sold was actually doubled, since the entire book was released in two separate books, creating the million-copy bestseller hype. One book had a green cover, the other a red one. In 1986, Murakami left Japan, traveled throughout Europe, and settled in the United States.
Murakami was a writing fellow at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. During this time he wrote South of the Border, West of the Sun and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
The processing of collective trauma soon took a central position in Murakami's writing, which had until then been more personal in nature. While he was finishing The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Japan was shaken by the Kobe earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack, in the aftermath of which he returned to Japan. He came to terms with these events with his first work of non-fiction, Underground, and the short story collection after the quake. Underground consists largely of interviews of victims of the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system. While perpetrators and events behind the attack are not the focus of the book, the picture of Japanese society that Murakami paints is shocking.
English translations of many of his short stories written between 1983 and 1990 have been collected in The Elephant Vanishes. He has also translated many of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Truman Capote, John Irving, and Paul Theroux, among others, into Japanese.
In 2006, Murakami became the sixth recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize from the Czech Republic for his novel Umibe no Kafka (Kafka on the Shore). Murakami told reporters, "In a way, reading Franz Kafka's works served as a starting point for me as a novelist."
The succinct Sputnik Sweetheart was first published in 1999. Kafka on the Shore was published in 2002, with the English translation following in 2005. The English version of his latest novel, After Dark, was released in May 2007. It was chosen by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. In late 2005, Murakami published a collection of short stories titled Tōkyō Kitanshū (東京奇譚集, translates loosely as "Mysteries of Tokyo"). A collection of the English versions of 24 short stories, titled Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, was published in August 2006. This collection includes both older works from the 1980s as well as some of Murakami's most recent short stories (including all five that appear in Tōkyō Kitanshū).
Murakami has recently published an anthology called Birthday Stories, which collects short stories on the theme of birthdays by Russell Banks, Ethan Canin, Raymond Carver, David Foster Wallace, Denis Johnson, Claire Keegan, Andrea Lee, Daniel Lyons, Lynda Sexson, Paul Theroux, and William Trevor, as well as a specially written story by Murakami himself.
A new book of essays titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, featuring tales about his experience as a full marathon runner and a triathlete, has been published in Japan, with English translations released in the U.K. and the U.S. This title is a play on that of Raymond Carver's collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
Murakami's fiction, often criticized for being "pop" literature by Japan's literary establishment, is humorous and surreal, and at the same time digresses on themes of alienation, loneliness, and longing for love. In addition, Murakami's writing has also been criticized because of his portrayal of Japan's obsession with capitalism. Through his work, he was able to capture the spiritual emptiness of his generation and explore the negative effects of Japan's work-dominated mentality. His writing criticizes the decrease in human values and a loss of connection between people in Japan's society.
Murakami was awarded the 2007 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction for his collection of short stories Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman but, according to the Kiriyama Official Website, Murakami "declined to accept the award for reasons of personal principle".
Murakami was mistakenly congratulated for receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006 on the homepage of a city library in his native Ashiya, but this was the library's error.
Naoto Yamakawa directed two short films Attack on the Bakery (released in 1982) and A Girl, She is 100 Percent (released in 1983) , based on Murakami's short stories Attack on the Bakery and On Seeing the 100% Perfect Woman One Beautiful April Morning respectively.
Japanese director Jun Ichikawa has adapted Murakami's short story Tony Takitani into a 75 minute feature. The film has played at various film festivals and was released in New York and Los Angeles on July 29 2005. The original short story (as translated by Jay Rubin) is available in the April 15 2002, issue of The New Yorker, as a stand-alone book published by Cloverfield Press, and part of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Knopf.
In 1998 the German film Der Eisbaer (Polar Bear), written and directed by Granz Henman, used elements of Murakami's short story The Second Bakery Attack in its three intersecting story lines.
Murakami's work has also been adapted for the stage, in a 2003 play entitled The Elephant Vanishes, co-produced by Britain's Complicite company and Japan's Setagaya Public Theatre. The production, directed by Simon McBurney, adapted three of Murakami's short stories and received acclaim for its unique blending of multimedia (video, music, and innovative sound design) with actor-driven physical theatre (mime, dance, and even acrobatic wirework). On tour, the play was performed in Japanese, with translating supertitles for European and American audiences.
Two stories from Murakami's book after the quake—Honey Pie and Superfrog Saves Tokyo— have been adapted for the stage and directed by Frank Galati. Entitled after the quake, the play was first performed at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in association with La Jolla Playhouse, and opened October 12 2007 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. In 2008 Galati adapted and directed a theatrical version of Kafka on the Shore also first running at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater from September to November.
In 2007, Robert Logevall adapted All God's Children Can Dance into a film, with a specially composed soundtrack by American jam band Sound Tribe Sector 9.
In 2008, Tom Flint adapted On Seeing the 100% Perfect Woman One Beautiful April Morning into a short film. The film was screened at the 2008 CON-CAN Movie Festival. The film can be viewed, voted, and commented upon as part of the Audience award for the movie festival.
|1987||Hear the Wind Sing||1979|| 風の歌を聴け|
Kaze no uta o kike
|1985||Pinball, 1973||1980|| 1973年のピンボール|
1973-nen no pinbōru
|1989||A Wild Sheep Chase||1982|| 羊をめぐる冒険|
Hitsuji o meguru bōken
|1991||Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World||1985|| 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド|
Sekai no owari to hādoboirudo wandārando
|2000||Norwegian Wood||1987|| ノルウェイの森|
Noruwei no mori
|1994||Dance Dance Dance||1988|| ダンス・ダンス・ダンス|
Dansu dansu dansu
|2000||South of the Border, West of the Sun||1992|| 国境の南、太陽の西|
Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi
|1997||The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle||1992-1995|| ねじまき鳥クロニクル|
|2001||Sputnik Sweetheart||1999|| スプートニクの恋人|
Supūtoniku no koibito
|2005||Kafka on the Shore||2002|| 海辺のカフカ|
Umibe no Kafuka
|2007||After Dark||2004|| アフターダーク|
|Year||Japanese Title||English Title||Appears in|
"Chūgoku-yuki no surou bōto"
|"A Slow Boat to China"||The Elephant Vanishes|
"Binbō na obasan no hanashi"
|"A 'Poor Aunt' Story"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
"Nyū Yōku tankō no higeki"
|"New York Mining Disaster"|
"Supagetī no toshi ni"
|"The Year of Spaghetti"|
"Shigatsu no aru hareta asa ni 100-paasento no onna no ko ni deau koto ni tsuite"
|"On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning"||The Elephant Vanishes|
|"Dabchick"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
|"A Perfect Day for Kangaroos"|
|"The Kangaroo Communique"||The Elephant Vanishes|
"Gogo no saigo no shibafu"
|"The Last Lawn of the Afternoon"|
|"The Mirror"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
"Tongari-yaki no seisui"
|"The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes"|
"Naya wo yaku"
|"Barn Burning"||The Elephant Vanishes|
|"Crabs"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
|"The Dancing Dwarf"||The Elephant Vanishes|
|"The Second Bakery Attack"|
"Zō no shōmetsu"
|"The Elephant Vanishes"|
|"A Family Affair"|
"Rōma-teikoku no hōkai・1881-nen no indian hōki・Hittorā no pōrando shinnyū・soshite kyōfū sekai"
|"The Fall of the Roman Empire, the 1881 Indian Uprising, Hitler's Invasion of Poland, and the Realm of Raging Winds"|
"Nejimaki-dori to kayōbi no onnatachi"
|"The Wind-up Bird And Tuesday's Women"|
"TV pīpuru no gyakushū"
"Hikōki-arui wa kare wa ika ni shite shi wo yomu yō ni hitorigoto wo itta ka"
|"Aeroplane: Or, How He Talked to Himself as if Reciting Poetry"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
"Warera no jidai no fōkuroa-kōdo shihonshugi zenshi"
|"A Folklore for My Generation: A Prehistory of Late-Stage Capitalism"|
|"The Silence"||The Elephant Vanishes|
"Midori-iro no kemono"
|"The Little Green Monster"|
|"The Ice Man"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
"Mekurayanagi to, nemuru onna"
|"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman"|
"Nanabanme no otoko"
|"The Seventh Man"|
"UFO ga kushiro ni oriru"
|"UFO in Kushiro"||after the quake|
"Airon no aru fūkei"
|"Landscape with Flatiron"|
"Kami no kodomotachi wa mina odoru"
|"All God's Children Can Dance"|
"Kaeru-kun, Tōkyō wo sukū"
|"Super-Frog Saves Tokyo"|
|"Birthday Girl"||Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman|
"Gūzen no tabibito"
"Doko de are sore ga mitsukarisō na basho de"
|"Where I'm Likely to Find It"|
"Hibi idō suru jinzō no katachi wo shita ishi"
|"The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day"|
|"A Shinagawa Monkey"|
|2008||What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (memoir)||2007||走ることについて語るときに僕の語ること|
|2009||Murakami Diary 2009 (diary)|