The world renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami is best known for his works of realist come absurdist fiction exploring the tough questions that concern humanity. A Japanese writer, his ideas appeal internationally and should be on everyone’s to-read list.
Norwegian Wood (1987)
The book that propelled Haruki Murakami to fame, Norwegian Wood follows the student years of Toru Watanabe and his experiences with two women. Set in Tokyo in the 1960s, the novel was a huge hit among students in the 80’s, as it saw one of the first depictions of the defeating nature of a student revolution and inspired many with a passion for contemporary politics and social action. All-in-all, this one is both a compelling and revealing read, and a fine place to start a journey through Murakami’s works.
Perhaps the most widely read of all Murukami’s works, 1Q84 reached the one million sales mark just one month after its publication. The title, a reference to George Orwell’s 1984, introduces the theater of action: a fictional Tokyo in a fictional 1984. The book’s premise is based on the idea that a single action will change the entire path of an individual’s life, much in the same vein as Tolstoy’s Forged Coupon. In this case, it’s the life of protagonist Aomame. A compelling read ensues.
Kafka on The Shore (2002)
Kafka On The Shore, published in 2002, narrates two separate yet interrelated plots, interchanging between them with each paragraph or chapter. Like Murukami’s other novels, Kafka on the Shore depicts a blend of pop culture, magical realism and sexuality but has a larger focus on Japanese religious traditions. There is also an overarching tendency to absurdity in this one, poking through with the protagonist’s prolonged conversations with cats and curious psuedo-nuclear goings on.