Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Haruki Murakami: I don't like deadlines …when it's finished, it's finished.

"Once I talked to a very famous therapist in Japan, and I said to him that I don't dream much, almost nothing, and he said: 'That makes sense.' So I wanted to ask him: 'Why? Why does it make sense?' But there was no time. And I was waiting to see him again, but he died three or four years ago." He smiles sadly. "Too bad."

His novels almost always feature a thematic piece of music (his breakout Japanese bestseller, Norwegian Wood, was named after the Beatles song). The unusual harmonies of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" were perfect for this novel's haunted pianist, he thought:
"Thelonious Monk's tune is full of mysteries. Monk plays some very strange sounds during the chords. Very strange. But to him it's a very logical chord. But when we are listening to his music it doesn't sound logical."

"I wake up early in the morning and I play a record, a vinyl record, when I'm writing. Not so loud. After 10 or 15 minutes I forget about the music, I just concentrate on my writing. But still I need some kind of music, good music. When I was writing Tsukuru Tazaki I was listening to Liszt, the Years of Pilgrimage, and that song, 'Le mal du pays', remained in my mind somehow, so I just wanted to write something about that song. That's a beautiful record." Listening to it, Tsukuru feels as if "he'd swallowed a hard lump of cloud".

"There is a reason I'm interested in railway stations," Murakami begins to explain, not unmysteriously. It dates back to his early 20s, when he was looking for a good location in Tokyo to open his jazz bar. "I heard a certain railway company was rebuilding a station," he says. He wanted to know where the new entrance would be, so his bar would be near it. "But that's a secret, you know, because people are speculating." At the time Murakami was studying drama, but he went to the railway company and pretended to be a student of railways, befriending the man who was in charge of the rebuilding project. "He didn't tell me the new location of the entrance to the station. But he was a nice guy. We had a good time together. So when I wrote this book I remembered that episode.
I have collected so many memories, in my chest, the chest of my mind," he says with satisfaction. "I think everybody has a lot of memories of his or her own, but it's a special gift to find the right drawer. I can do that. If I need something, I can point to the right drawer."

"I like to write. I like to choose the right word, I like to write the right sentence. It's just like gardening or something. You put the seed into the soil at the right time, in the right place."

"You can say that it's a kind of unconscious, subconscious … you have to go down there and come back to the surface. You have to dedicate yourself to that work. You have no extra space to do something else."

"I take time to rewrite," he explains. "Rewriting is my favourite part of writing. The first time is a kind of torture, sometimes. Raymond Carver [whose work Murakami has translated into Japanese] said the same thing. I met him and I talked with him in 1983 or 84, and he said: 'The first draft is kind of torture, but when you rewrite it's getting better, so you are happy, it's getting better and better and better.'"
There is never a deadline for a Murakami novel – "I don't like deadlines …when it's finished, it's finished. But before then, it is not finished."
Sometimes he can't tell when he should stop rewriting, but "my wife knows. Yes. Sometimes she decides: 'You should be finished here.'" He smiles and imitates his own obedient response: "'OK!'"

"I'm a kind of outcast of the Japanese literary world. I have my own readers … But critics, writers, many of them don't like me."

"I think serious readers of books are 5% of the population," he says. "If there are good TV shows or a World Cup or anything, that 5% will keep on reading books very seriously, enthusiastically. And if a society banned books, they would go into the forest and remember all the books. So I trust in their existence. I have confidence."

"Scott Fitzgerald was my idol when I was young. But he died when he was 40-something. I love Truman Capote, but he died at 50-something. And Dostoyevsky is my ideal writer, but he died at 59. I'm 65 right now. I don't know what's going to happen! So I have no role model. I have no idea – when I am 80 years old, what will I write? I don't know. Maybe I'm running and writing …" "That would be great. But nobody knows."

Haruki Murakami's interview - The Guardian, Saturday 13 September 2014

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