Tag: haruki murakami


Haruki Murakami Discusses Parallel Realities in ‘Killing Commendatore’

Hey Bookstrs, good news here! The internationally distinguished author Haruki Murakami’s 2017 novel Killing Commendatore is going to say hi to all the English readers in this October!  Recently, an article titled “The Wind Cave,” an excerpt from Murakami’s novel, was published by The New Yorker, followed by an interview in which Murakami shared his inspirations, metaphors, reality, imagination, and his belief in parallel universes.


Though Murakami’s latest work Killing Commendatore has been declared “indecent” by Hong Kong censors (hey! the political intervention in literary composition is no doubt unwelcome!), Murakami is beloved by global readers, and has therefore been named as one of four finalists for the New Academy’s alternative prize for literature (responding to the cancellation of the Noble Prize in Literature due to the sexual misconduct scandal in the Swedish Academy). The right thing always needs no further explanation and Murakami’s contribution, no matter if his being censored or being almost-awarded, is clear and powerful. In Murakami’s literary world, there is always a negotiation between sun and shadow, and the parallel universes keep affecting the characters living on each side. Killing Commendatore, according to Murakami, is a piece of work in which, after a long time, he returns to the first person narrative, and he feels good about this perspective. 




Image via zig.comamazon.in, and Vulture



In “The Wind Cave” the storyteller “I” speaks about the death of his younger sister twenty years ago and how the trauma lingers on his mind. The storyteller feels guilty and regretful about not taking care his twelve-year-old sister who suffered from a heart disease. There is one description that is very heartbreaking: when the sister’s delicate body is placed in a small-sized coffin, quietly and coldly, and is ready to be sent to the crematorium, the storyteller’s heart breaks:

I couldn’t stand to see her be cremated. When the coffin lid was shut and locked, I left the room. I didn’t help when my family ritually placed her bones inside an urn. I went out into the crematorium courtyard and cried soundlessly by myself. During her all too short life, I’d never once helped my little sister, a thought that hurt me deeply. 


This deeply-hurt feeling is the trauma that Murakami is trying to explore in his writing. In the interview with The New Yorker, Murakami shared his thought that:


There are three types of emotional wounds: those that heal quickly, those that take a long time to heal, and those that remain with you until you die. I think one of the major roles of fiction is to explore as deeply and in as much detail as possible the wounds that remain. Because those are the scars that, for better or for worse, define and shape a person’s life. And stories—effective stories, that is—can pinpoint where a wound lies, define its boundaries (often, the wounded person isn’t actually aware that it exists), and work to heal it.


The most dramatic part of the plot happens in a cave near Mount Fuji and it’s called The Wind Cave. Murakami confessed that he’s obsessed with caves. During his traveling around the world, he’s visited countless caves. In the story of “The Wind Cave,” the storyteller’s sister, before her death, once mentioned her thought that the characters in Alice in Wonderland are real, dwelling in another axis of the world, or simply, another universe. The themes of parallel realities and, in a certain sense, of boundary blurring between reality and “the other reality” are Murakami’s intentions of creating Killing Commendatore:



I ask myself the same question. When I’m writing novels, reality and unreality just naturally get mixed together. It’s not as if that was my plan and I’m following it as I write, but the more I try to write about reality in a realistic way, the more the unreal world invariably emerges. For me, a novel is like a party. Anybody who wants to join in can join in, and those who wish to leave can do so whenever they want. I think novels get their driving force from that sense of freedom.


My basic view of the world is that right next to the world we live in, the one we’re all familiar with, is a world we know nothing about, an unfamiliar world that exists concurrently with our own. The structure of that world, and its meaning, can’t be explained in words. But the fact is that it’s there, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of it, just by chance—like when a flash of lightning illuminates our surroundings for an instant.



Isn’t it amazing? I totally agree with Murakami’s thought about parallel realities not only because I’m a deep Murakami fan but also because of my belief in the fact that everyone occasionally experience the feeling that this world is unreal while the other is more approachable. No matter if it’s a deja vu, a daydream, or a mere illusion, this sense of entering into a Wonderland is originally the core in human being’s imagination. As Murakami keeps saying, the reason why Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is so “wonderful” because this self-satisfying territory is always welcome and making sense. Explanations are unneeded. 



I’m sure Killing Commendatore is an exceptional piece of work in terms of its multi-cultural blood. We all know that Murakami’s literary career has been nourished by so many Western classic authors, such as Lewis Caroll and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet, according to Murakami, Killing Commendatore is based on a traditional Japanese literary text called Tales of Spring Rain by Edo-period author Akinari Ueda. For a long time, Murakami said, he has been thinking about writing a novel regarding to this text. 



Now here he is. Killing Commendatore. A story about a middle-age painter who is abandoned by his wife, finds out his fascination with a mysterious artist’s painting, and decides to embark on a journey of searching himself and dealing with the haunted traumatic memories. The release date will be October 9th, 2018. Let’s get trapped in the Murakami magic again!



Suggested readings:




Featured Image Via hurriyetdailynews.com and The New Yorker (Illustration By Bianca Bagnarelli)


The New Academy Releases Its Four Finalists in 2018 Alternative Prize in Literature

As long as you’re book-lovers or Bookstr fans, you may have already known that, unfortunately, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature has been cancelled due to the explosion of sexual assault scandals in the Swedish Academy. But the celebration of humanities never stops. As an alternative and temporary for Prize in Literature, the New Academy just announced the shortlist of four authors for the 2018 New Academy Prize in Literature: Neil Gaiman, Maryse Condé, Haruki Murakami, and Kim Thúy.




Books of the final four | Image Via stadsbibblanstockholm



Feeling shame about the scandal in a used-to-be distinguished and respectful Swedish Academy, Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish columnist, gathered the efforts from more than a hundred Swedish art and literature works. This included authors, librarians, correspondents, artists, and professors, which all give birth to Den Nya Akademien (New Academy), a non-profit organization, both politically and financially independent.



Different from the traditional way of evaluating prize nominees behind a secret veil like the Swedish Academy did, the New Academy opens the power of selection to the public. After the voting process is conducted by thousands of global book fans, the final four are released and sent to the evaluation committee. The juries include the chairman Ann Pålssonsenior, a senior editor; Lisbeth Larsson, the Professor of Literature at University of Gothenburg; Gunilla Sandin, the Head of Library; and Peter Stenson, Editor and Independent Publisher.



The final decision will be made on October 12th with the award ceremony on December 9. After the ceremony, both the New Academy and jury committee will dismiss themselves automatically. In what follows, let’s read more about our final four:




Neil Gaiman: a superstar in the fantasy community



Image Via recode.net


Born in 1960 in England and living in the U.S. now, Gailman is best known for his fantasy writing, such as Stardust (1999) and American Gods (2001). His young adult novel The Graveyard Book received the U.S. Newbery Medal Award in 2009. After hearing the news of his nomination, Gailman tweeted: “Winning would not make me any happier than being on that list makes me. So I don’t think of it as being up against opponents, just as being in glorious and honoured company.”


Selected bibliography:
The Sandman: Book of Dreams, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane



Maryse Condé: a change-maker of the colonial world



Image Via Repeating Islands

Born in 1937 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe and living in Guadeloupe and France now, this outstanding Caribbean author is so talented. Conde explores “how colonialism has changed the world and how those affected take back their heritage,” according the New Academy. Known for her critical probing into (post)colonial worlds, Dr. Condé had taught Francophone literature in Columbia University, New York. 


Selected bibliography:
Desirada, Segu, Crossing the Mangrove, Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?



Haruki Murakami: a mastery frontrunner of magic realism



Image Via Financial Tribune


Born in 1949 in Kyoto, Murakami now lives in Tokyo and is known for his dancing and magical words in both Japanese and global literary platforms. As a translator and author, Murakami is distinguished in “fus[ing] pop culture with a fierce magic realism.” While being translated into many languages, his work explores the existentialism of modern human conditions, such as urban loneliness, joyful but painful sex, lost-and-found identity, and familial complexities. For many Murakami fans, his being nominated must be a piece of great news because Murakami is also mentioned as a marathon Nobel Prize-candidate.


Selected bibliography:
Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, IQ84



Kim Thúy: a painter of Vietnamese exile and identity



Image Via Le Devoir


Born in 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam, Kim Thúy left her native country with her family as refugees, spending one year in Malaysian asylum and growing up in Canada. In 2009, her autobiographical first work, Ru, brought her into the global literary world and received Governor General’s Award in 2010. Her stories, according to New Academy, “paint the colors of Vietnam and the scents and flavors too, as well as the perils of exile and search for identity.”

Selected bibliography:
Ru, Man, Vi




Image Via the New Academy



Having a better understanding of these amazing authors gives me heartwarming and exciting feelings in my heart. They’re keeping the sparkles of the humanities gleaming in the darkness of unpleasant and abusive sexism. As the New Academy states:



In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded.



No matter if it is a fantasy that unfolds the hope in another universe, a historical fiction that criticizes the violence of archaic monarchy, a magical realist novel that duplicates the complex of sun and shadow, or a memoir-oriented fiction that archives the tear and blood of exile, these four authors have done it all. They (re)present the world(s) that we lived, are living, and are heading toward. Much appreciation to them for writing of the democracy, openness, and respect we all desire. Congratulations for being the final four!  



Suggested readings:




Featured Image Via shopforclipart.comAfriculturesHN Art – Hospodářské noviny, and The Georgia Straight


Haruki Murakami’s Latest Novel Declared ‘Indecent’ by Hong Kong Censors

Haruki Murakami’s 2017 novel Killing Commendatore has been ruled to be “indecent” and removed from display at a book fair by Hong Kong censors.


Hong Kong’s Obscene Articles Tribunal recently announced that the Mandarin edition of respected Japanese author Murakami’s Killing Commendatore had been temporarily classified as “Class II: indecent materials.” This means that it can only be sold in bookshops if it has a cover wrapped with a notice warning about its contents, with access restricted to underage people. The book has also been removed from booths at the Hong Kong book fair.



Image via Twitter/GTL


In Killing Commendatore, Murakami tells a story about a thirty-six-year-old artist who embarks on his journey finding out why his wife suddenly confessed her affair and asked for divorce. The novel is weaved with abundant metaphors and historical pieces like Nanking Massacre. In one hour after it was released, the novel had reached the top seller of Amazon in 2017.


Needless to say, this unexpected sentence sparked a public backlash and raises doubts about the tribunal’s internal composition. Many critics suspected that one of the reasons for this ruling is Murakami’s descriptions of sex. Yet, people don’t buy that: According to the Guardian, Jason Y Ng, president of PEN Hong Kong, responds to this ruling that:


They are also arbitrary: who is to say Mr. Murakami’s depiction of sex in Killing Commendatore is any more indecent than that in a James Joyce or Henry Miller novel? And yet the former is banned from a literary event and the latter is taught in school as classics.


The HK01 suspected that maybe Murakami’s support for the Umbrella Revolution, a 2014 Hong Kong protests aiming for voting right, caused this governmental ruling. 


There’s a petition signed by almost 2,000 people calling for a reversal of the tribunal’s decision, stating that the “indecent” ruling “makes Hong Kong the most conservative area in the Sino-sphere, and will bring shame to the people of Hong Kong.”


No matter what reasons behind this ruling, I believe that the freedom of thoughts and words is still the broad consensus that we should fight for. Let’s keep ourselves in the loop and see how the story will develop.




Featured Image via Good e-reader

jk rowling as a man from face app

The Face App Results on Your 7 Favorite Authors Are Hilarious

Here at Bookstr, we’re fans of scientific research. Today our constant quest for knowledge has led us to discovering what our favorite authors look like aged, gender-swapped, young, bald, or moustachioed using Face App. 


Among my favorites are J. K. Rowling’s very Jeremy Corbyn-esque male self, Stephen King’s can-I-speak-to-the-manager female self, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Zack-and-or-Cody child self. 




J. K. Rowling


jk rowling face app bookstr


Stephen King


stephen king face app bookstr


Haruki Murakami


haruki murakami face swap face app bookstr


John Green


john green face app face swap bookstr


Virginia Woolf


virginia woolf face app face swap


George R. R. Martin


george r.r. martin face app face swap bookstr


Ursula K. Le Guin


ursula k. leguin face app face swap bookstr


All Images Via Face App