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The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami

Matthew Carl Strecher

Publication Year: 2014

In an “other world” composed of language—it could be a fathomless Martian well, a labyrinthine hotel or forest—a narrative unfolds, and with it the experiences, memories, and dreams that constitute reality for Haruki Murakami’s characters and readers alike. Memories and dreams in turn conjure their magical counterparts—people without names or pasts, fantastic animals, half-animals, and talking machines that traverse the dark psychic underworld of this writer’s extraordinary fiction.

Fervently acclaimed worldwide, Murakami’s wildly imaginative work in many ways remains a mystery, its worlds within worlds uncharted territory. Finally in this book readers will find a map to the strange realm that grounds virtually every aspect of Murakami’s writing. A journey through the enigmatic and baffling innermost mind, a metaphysical dimension where Murakami’s most bizarre scenes and characters lurk, The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami exposes the psychological and mythological underpinnings of this other world. Matthew Carl Strecher shows how these considerations color Murakami’s depictions of the individual and collective soul, which constantly shift between the tangible and intangible but in this literary landscape are undeniably real.

Through these otherworldly depths The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami also charts the writer’s vivid “inner world,” whether unconscious or underworld (what some Japanese critics call achiragawa, or “over there”), and its connectivity to language. Strecher covers all of Murakami’s work—including his efforts as a literary journalist—and concludes with the first full-length close reading of the writer’s newest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

Like a lot of good ideas, this book originated over a cup of coffee (or was it something stronger?) and an idle conversation with a friend. I was in Tokyo, getting some reading done after the departure of my language students, fourteen of whom had come with me for a two-week “travel study” program at Tōyō University. My friend, an...

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pp. xiii-xiv

A great many people were helpful to me in the preparation of this book. Chronologically, I should begin with Honda Hiroko, the delightful NHK producer who first suggested it was time for me to write another book. Numerous friends and colleagues at Tōyō University also deserve mention: Satō Akira, Sugimoto Futoshi, Tsuchida Kensei, Katō...

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Introduction: The Power of the “Story”

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pp. 1-26

It has now been more than three decades since novelist Murakami Haruki (born 1949) made his debut on the Japanese literary stage with the publication of his brief, almost laconic novella Kaze no uta o kike (1979; translated as Hear the Wind Sing). This work, along with his second, 1973-nen no pinbōru (1980; translated...

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1. New Words, New Worlds

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pp. 27-68

In one of his very first short stories, “Binbō na obasan no hanashi” (translated by Jay Rubin as “A Poor Aunt’s Story”), Murakami Haruki’s ubiquitous nameless protagonist “Boku” explains the pale image of a middle-aged woman clinging to his back as tada no kotoba, or “just words.” In this one brief statement, Murakami sums up a facet...

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2. Into the Mad, Metaphysical Realm

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pp. 69-116

Supernatural or metaphysical elements have been an integral part of Murakami Haruki’s fiction from the beginning of his career. In those early days, however, those elements, which are widely understood to be associated with that type of writing known as magical realist, presented themselves as peripheral to the principal...

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3. Gods and Oracles, Fate and Mythology

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pp. 117-158

In chapter 1 we explored how language constitutes realities, as well as the rather vexing question of “who speaks,” that is, who rightfully wields the power of creation through language. Murakami once said that he feels “like a god” when he writes, and the comparison is an apt one, for the creation of worlds is often regarded as the work of...

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4. Murakami Haruki as Literary Journalist

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pp. 159-194

To this point we have explored, through the metaphysical Murakami landscape, how language as narrative constitutes and shapes not only the realities external to the subject but those that lurk within the mind, in dreams and the imagination, even in the realm of the gods themselves. It is time, then, to bring the discussion...

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5. Forbidden Dreams from “Over There”

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pp. 195-230

Having spent the past four chapters examining how language constitutes realities and what sorts of realities are created, not only in the fictional framework but through actual world examples of literary journalism and journalistic fiction, I will end this volume with a close reading of Murakami’s most recent...

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Epilogue: The Roads Not Taken

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pp. 231-238

In addition to his work as a novelist, Murakami is a widely acclaimed writer of nonfiction as well as a highly prolific translator. Aside from the works of literary journalism discussed in chapter 4 (which clearly have social and political agendas attached), his nonfiction output includes travelogues, collections of essays, miscellanies, and...


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pp. 239-252


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pp. 253-270


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pp. 271-276

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About the Author

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p. 277-277

Matthew Carl Strecher is associate professor of Japanese language and literature at Winona State University in Minnesota. He is the author of Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird...

E-ISBN-13: 9781452943053
E-ISBN-10: 1452943052
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816691982

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014