Haruki Murakami on his work
1. I’m not intelligent. I’m not arrogant. I’m just like the people who read my books. I used to have a jazz club, and I made the cocktails and I made the sandwiches. I didn’t want to become a writer—it just happened. It’s a kind of gift, you know, from the heavens. So I think I should be very humble.
2. I started writing at the kitchen table after midnight. It took ten months to finish that first book; I sent it to a publisher and I got some kind of prize, so it was like a dream—I was surprised to find it happening. But after a moment, I thought, Yes, it’s happened and I’m a writer; why not? It’s that simple.
3. I didn’t read many Japanese writers when I was a child or even in my teens. I wanted to escape from this culture; I felt it was boring. Too sticky [… ] I just went toward Western culture: jazz music and Dostoevsky and Kafka and Raymond Chandler. That was my own world, my fantasyland. I could go to St. Petersburg or West Hollywood if I wanted. That’s the power of the novel—you can go anywhere.
4. I don’t do any reviews or critiques; I don’t want to be involved in that […] I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them. I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world.
5. The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake. If it’s a real dream, you cannot control it. When writing the book, you are awake; you can choose the time, the length, everything.
6. Please think about [my protagonists] this way: I have a twin brother. And when I was two years old, one of us—the other one—was kidnapped. He was brought to a faraway place and we haven’t seen each other since. I think my protagonist is him. A part of myself, but not me, and we haven’t seen each other for a long time. It’s a kind of alternative form of myself. In terms of DNA, we are the same, but our environment has been different. So our way of thinking would be different. Every time I write a book I put my feet in different shoes. Because sometimes I am tired of being myself. This way I can escape. It’s a fantasy. If you can’t have a fantasy, what’s the point of writing a book?
7. My protagonist is almost always caught between the spiritual world and the real world. In the spiritual world, the women—or men—are quiet, intelligent, modest. Wise. In the realistic world, as you say, the women are very active, comic, positive. They have a sense of humor. The protagonist’s mind is split between these totally different worlds and he cannot choose which to take.
8. Narratives are very important nowadays in writing books. I don’t care about theories. I don’t care about vocabulary. What is important is whether the narrative is good or not. We have a new kind of folklore, as a result of this Internet world. It’s a kind of metaphor. I’ve seen that movie, The Matrix—it’s a folktale of the contemporary mind. But everybody [in Japan] said it’s boring.
9. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, writers offered the real thing; that was their task. In War and Peace Tolstoy describes the battleground so closely that the readers believe it’s the real thing. But I don’t. I’m not pretending it’s the real thing. We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake. But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same; we are walking through fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real. The situation is real, in the sense that it’s a commitment, it’s a true relationship. That’s what I want to write about.
— Excerpts from “The Art of Fiction No. 182, Haruki Murakami,” The Paris Review