A long jog with Haruki Murakami

The author published And me, I always read (2022), Between two worlds (2019) and In the depths of power (2016), the diary of his tenure with Prime Minister Pauline Marois as Deputy Chief of Staff. He worked in communications and advertising, politics, then technology at Behavior Interactif.

I run and I think of something else. It’s a bit the spirit that Haruki Murakami wanted to convey in his Self-portrait of the author as a long-distance runner, published a few years ago. One of the ideas he develops there is that any activity that we do for a long time becomes contemplative. A kind of meditation. He is an author who takes his time. We understand better why he publishes such voluminous novels, which oblige the reader to spend a few weeks in his company…

The Japanese author believes in work, in concentration, in the importance of duration. To register for the long term. Reading inscribes us in time. Often what you want to tell turns out to be “a longer story than it first appears”, he says in Spring Bird Chronicles, one of his most beautiful novels. It’s that with Murakami, things are never what they seem. “To think of nothing, you have to think of lots of things”, writes the novelist. The reverse is also true.

Reading Murakami feels like meeting Philippe Delerm in New York. We have the impression of visiting familiar places, of rubbing shoulders with people we have already seen, of feeling things that we have already experienced. The author may live and write on the other side of the world — Murakami will have lived for a few years in the United States, but he has been back in his native country since the mid-1990s — we are caught up in his stories as if they were ours. “May I point out to you,” he wrote in Spring Bird Chronicles, that everything is both very complicated and very simple. It is a fundamental rule that governs this world. We recognize it well. Because, let’s face it, simplicity is always a lure with Murakami.

He was born just after the Second World War, in 1949. Japan had not yet recovered from the nuclear shock that put an end to it. He first ran a small jazz bar in Tokyo before he started writing when he was around 30 years old. In an article from New Yorker published in 2008, shortly after the publication ofself-portrait from the author to a long-distance runnerhe said that he has been running daily since 1982, having started running around the same time he decided to devote himself to writing.

Like John Irving, which he has also translated into Japanese, he believes in the importance of combining work and physical fitness. He had his first success in 1987 with The ballad of the impossible, sold more than two million copies, while his first novel was published in 1979. A baseball lover, he goes to bed early and gets up with the sun. Eternal contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, like Joyce Carol Oates, he is one of the most widely read Japanese writers in the world.

A unique universe

With his universe both poetic and magical – punctuated by surrealism and fantasy – Murakami is always somewhere near reality, or normality. Sometimes closer to journalism or the essay in books like the one on jogging or Underground, on the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, it is through his novels that he has succeeded in establishing himself as one of the most astonishing authors of our time. Humor, melancholy, difficulty to say what one feels; his characters are always a bit quirky, detached, have a confused sexuality and a look that is both childish and sharp on the world. I forgot : Murakami is also F. Scott Fitzgerald’s translator. Can one be a bad writer when one has translated Fitz?

At the very beginning of 1Q84, a huge novel-world, he says that one of the greatest lessons that history teaches us is that you never know what is coming. In life, things happen that you don’t expect. And sometimes you have to go back to where you started. “Don’t you think there’s a fatal blind spot in your mind?” we ask the main character of Spring Bird Chronicles. “Everything in this world is constantly in motion”, writes the author in Kafka on the shore. “Everything is fluid, everything is transient. »

Political charge

Literature and politics are never far from each other. Murakami’s novels are crossed by his reading of the evolution of post-war Japanese society. In Spring Bird Chronicles, he is interested in the loss of what he calls the “common principle”. It refers to the loss of bearings in our societies and in our lives. According to him, there will come a time when we will be completely lost. “What everyone agreed to find obvious until then, which had never raised the slightest doubt, will no longer be normal for anyone, and will lose all legitimacy,” writes Murakami. “We must realize that what makes the establishment of a new “common principle” indispensable and urgent is quite simply the total and imminent disappearance of any common principle. »

Murakami is a reminder in a thousand ways that few people seek the truth. All his work is at the junction of true and false. What is possible, impossible. Sometimes the impossible happens. Do we really know what is true? Murakami invites us to rethink the boundaries of reality. Our relationship to the fantastic. Sometimes you say to yourself: that was unimaginable. This is where Murakami works.

In books like Spring Bird Chronicles, he manages to make us believe that the unthinkable is also one of the things that can happen. In Kafka on the shore, he writes: “It is forbidden to close your eyes. It doesn’t help, anyway, and doesn’t erase what’s happening. ” In Spring Bird Chronicles, he rightly notes that good news is often announced in a low voice. I think about Microfiction 2022, by Régis Jauffret. Starting from an insignificant thing, all of life can change – a theme that Jauffret exploits more thirstily. We find ourselves on a new track, like the cars in a marshalling yard.

Murakami also explores the question of good and evil. These are not rigid concepts for him. You can go from one to the other in a fraction of a second, as you can see with Jauffret. It’s also how Dostoyevsky portrays the world in books like The Karamazov brothers. Good and bad are constantly swapping roles, sort of. What matters is maintaining the balance. “It is balance itself that is good,” writes Murakami. He praises twists and turns, unexpected developments. “There is only one kind of happiness, but unhappiness takes a thousand different forms,” he notes in Kafka on the shore. “As Tolstoy said, happiness is an allegory, unhappiness is a story. »

There are several references to Ernest Hemingway in Murakami’s work. In Kafka on the shore, where we find an old man and a talking cat, it is very difficult not to think of Hemingway and his dozens of cats in his Cuban villa. In Spring Bird ChroniclesMurakami recounts a scene from Farewell to arms who marked him with “his intense realism”. It’s true that Hemingway always tries to do more real than real. What Murakami’s work demonstrates is that there are several paths in literature to identify what is called truth. “But, after all, the question is not to know what is true,” he writes. “The question is which reality you choose, and which one I take. »


“History is made from our individual memory and our collective memory. The two are intimately linked. History is our collective memory. If our history is taken away from us, if it is rewritten, we lose the ability to understand ourselves,” Murakami argues in IQ84one of his three great novels, with Spring Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the shore. “We all lose things that are precious to us all the time”, he mentions in Kafka on the shore. “Precious occasions, possibilities, feelings that you can’t get back. This is also living. “We have to live with that. Sort. We don’t have to carry all our memories within us, as Jane Austen rightly reminded us. It’s as if there were a sort of library within us “to know precisely what is in our hearts”, writes Murakami. “You also have to sweep this room, air it out, change the water for the flowers. In other words, you will have to live in your own library. »

“Just like people, memory and memories age too. But some memories never get old,” he says in Spring Bird Chronicles. In Kafka on the shore, he notes that “memories are something that warms you from the inside. And which violently tears your heart at the same time”. He also writes: “In the immensity of the world, you see no space for yourself anywhere – a tiny space would be enough for you, however. How true it is that if you haven’t been loved, you have no place to return to. In Kafka on the shore, we can also read: “The battle that will put an end to all battles does not exist. »

“What are we looking for? This is the only question,” writes the author in Spring Bird Chronicles. “All human beings are born with a different thing at the center of their existence. Then this thing, whatever it is, becomes a source of heat, and rises to the surface, ”he writes again. Murakami said that when he started out, he had no ambition to become a novelist, only to write a novel. It’s a bit like that, the Murakamian style: announce little and reveal so much. “When we talk about gasoline, it often sounds like generalities,” he says in Spring Bird Chronicles.

I close a Murakami and go for a long run, thinking a little about that and a lot about something else. Let yourself be carried away by Murakami’s writing, just that.

We would like to thank the author of this write-up for this amazing material

A long jog with Haruki Murakami

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