Theater of Cruelty

Living is quite a strange thing

Occupation writer
WRITING / Murakami is charismatic without seeming pedantic. A mental training diary?


In this book, the Japanese author Haruki Murakami tells about how he came to be author. The first thing that strikes you is what an excellent teacher he is. I picture him as I read the book, an unassuming and quite funny man who shares his experiences. A book about how to become a writer should be contagious. If it's not contagious, if it doesn't somehow make the reader think: "Writing sounds really fun, even if it's probably incredibly tiring", then it doesn't have the right of life.

Murakami is a guy I would love to have like writeteacher. As a writer, he has a unique ability to reach his readers. He is charismatic without seeming pedantic, and he has a direct and rather playful literary style. In a way, he manages to convey that living is quite a strange thing, that one should never cease to be amazed that it is possible at all. He constantly reminds us readers of the wonder of existence. It is hard to see that he has any metaphysical or religious project, although the books are often quite strange. Reading Murakami is often described as "dreaming with open eyes". His style is often very simple, but what happens in the books often has a labyrinthine character. The characters have to figure out the inner and outer entanglements they have become entangled in. At the same time, the meeting with the close things often has an almost erotic tinge to it.

The author shares his infinite life wisdom – but life wisdom is something that often sinks like a stone in deep water when it is to be shared from one soul to another. Here, however, the wisdom of life in Murakami's case seems to arise completely spontaneously out of the language.

Writing tips

The most important tip he shares with me as a reader is that at a certain point he realizes that if he is going to write novels, it must be done in a way that does not involve a knee-jerk reaction to 'heavy' literature. He must find his own 'ease'. One could say: He must dare to let himself be led away by his own inner balloon. Or as he himself expresses it: He must find his own transparency. When you have found your own transparency and you have written a number of pages, you need to persevere. And then you have to have the necessary fitness. Murakami solved this problem by taking up running. Thus, this book is as much to be understood as a physical and mental training diary as it is a literary diary with writing tips for young writers. Physical strength also has a positive effect on mental strength, he writes.

Anyone who thinks this sounds just right low-shouldered, is absolutely right. And of course his tips are not meant to be copied either. Everyone has to find their own way. Murakami has found his. Like many young writers, he had to give up writing 'great literature' with the sophistication and depth of the old kind. Thus he also managed to get a lot of applause from the older farm japanske writers, who did not take him seriously. In short: He realized that he had to write the novels that only he could write.

Kafka carried on

It may seem like Kafka is one of Murakami's greatest sources of inspiration. In a way, Murakami has taken Kafka further into a more cartoon-like world, while the Japanese has kept some of the strange and surreal that we find in Kafka.

"You open the tool shed at the back of the house and take out the things you find there."

Murakami describes his methodology as follows: "What do you do if you can't find the really big things to write about? Jo: One resorts to the ET method. You open the tool shed at the back of the house and take out the things you find there – even if it's just something old and fast that at first glance seems completely useless." In this way, one also achieves, if one is lucky, contact with other planets. The point is to try to get in touch with the residents there. And there is no other method than opening the tool shed or the garage, according to him. Thus he has described his own literary method quite well: You take what you have – and voila! – then you are in contact with completely different universes, where strange phenomena occur that break with everyday logic.

To me, Murakami appears as a bit of a Karlson on the roof-like figure. He breaks into your everyday life with his rather strange existence, and hey, he doesn't have both an engine and a twin propeller. You should be careful not to let him take over your life – because you have to find your own voice – but let him take you on a tour of the wonderful world of literature.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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