Haruki Murakami appeared at the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival and talked about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage with the Independent’s Boyd Tonkin (BT) on Saturday.
These are my notes from the events. No recording was allowed. I am satisfied I have tried my best in taking these notes.
I was there 2 hours before the event started and there were at least 15 people waiting in line.
I had a front row seat!
Director of the festival again reminded, “no photos”, “no filming”.
Haruki Murakami (HM) was dressed in a more relaxed fashion then the day before. He wore a “Vinyl Junkie” t-shirt, checked jumper, white socks and blue Sketchers shoes.
HM said Edinburgh was a “beautiful city.” He would run in the morning. Running was the “best speed to look around the city”. Walking is too slow and driving is too fast. He said it rained a lot and talked about how hot it was in Japan. HM: “I think I am missing summer.”
HM would be going to Jura. Reason? HM: “I like whiskey… single malt.”
BT commented on the similarities between Norwegian Wood and Colorless. HM said there was no connection, “I didn’t remember Norwegian Wood at all.” Audience laughed and so did Noriko the translator. She was super amused.
HM said Colorless was based on his own experience. HM: “I have experience similar things… I was hurt… Different situation, sentiment same.”
HM: “When he’s hurt so deep, the scar stays.” He repeats “scar” and “stays”.
When asked to comment on the similarities between Sara Kimoto in Colorless and his other strong female characters, HM said, “Really?” Audience laughs again. The author’s forgetfulness is very charming. Noriko is also amused. That’s perhaps he speaks so little in public.
Both NW and Colorless are love stories. HM: “Love story is a story of search… sometimes they find one (lover). Sometimes they couldn’t. Sometimes they made a mistake.”
Asked about Kuro going to Finland, HM said she has to go far away, “another world”, “limbo”. It sounded like he did not choose Finland for any specific reason other than it’s far away.
An important clarification: HM: “Finland is not a limbo at all. Metaphorically speaking.”
HM: “I think of myself as a kind of engineer. I don’t think of myself as an artist… That would be easier for me to think of it this way.”
HM said that if he sees himself as an artist, “that would be too heavy” for him.
HM: “I have never experienced writer’s block. If i don’t wan’t to write anything, I don’t write. I do ironing. I do translation.”
He’s currently translating a Norwegian work. I didn’t get the author’s name.
BT talks about how different his books are in the use of humour and “fantastic elements” and how it would require him to be more humorous in one book and less in the other. HM: says there are “various sides in me” and he can adjust himself to meet the demands of the story, “It’s what the story decides. Not I.”
BT asked if talent must be nurtured. HM: “I have never think about talent or gift.”
HM: “I don’t think about how much talent or gift I have. It’s useless to think about it.” He just tinkers, “does his best”.
HM says he has a basement in his head which he uses when he writes. HM: “I go down to the basement. It’s scary.”
HM says writing is about his “essence”, not gift. The essence referring to the dark basement in his head.
BT said HM is famous around the world for his running and discipline. HM: “Famous? That’s great.”
The way HM says “famous?” is the same way he says “really?”. He says it fast, louder than usual and with a great sense of incredulity. Charming like hell.
HM says he needs to be physically strong so that he can “do down into the darkness” and be able to “return to the surface”. He says he is not a genius, so he would need to be strong and go down into the darkness and do the work.
HM is running the same distance as before but his “speed is getting worse and worse.”
HM listens to mostly american rock when running. He mentions Creedence Clearwater Revival. He likes Radiohead. He likes Black Eye Peas these days.
Music enables HM to keep writing. The Beatles helped HM to write Norwegian Wood.
In the morning, he listens to Classical. Driving – Rock. Sundown – Jazz.
He likes Stan Getz and Thelonious Monk.
Monk – “he knows what is the right note”. HM: “I like to write novels like he plays music.”
He is publishing a book about Monk in the summer in Japan. It is a collection of essays including one from him.
HM: “Translation is a hobby… good for balance of my mind.”
He doesn’t know why he likes Raymond Chandler. “I like his work so deep I cannot explain why.”
Asked if he has made any discoveries regarding writers, he said he has not.
He said translating has helped him put his feet in other writer’s shoes. He likes that but “not high heels”.
HM said a good translation really depends on the text. He said James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake was recently translated in Japanese – “that must be a tough job”.
HM quotes Woody Allen again, like the day before “empty sex is better than no sex”. Actual quote: “Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.”
HM: “I don’t like to write sexual scenes. It’s embarrassing.”
HM: “Sex and violence is simply the door to unconsciousness.”
HM said that the european/american audiences are different from the asians. europeans/americans are more logical. Asians “just accept the story. They just accept.”
HM talked about how in Greek mythology when Orpheus wanted to go to the underworld to see his wife, he had to do many things. “In Asia, it’s easy. If you want to go other side, you just go.”
Q&A. HM said it was easier for him to write male characters but he also likes to write female characters (“I’m observing so many ladies”).
HM: “I like Sara (Colorless) so much.”
HM said if he was not a novelist, he would be a jazz bar owner like before.
When asked about his favorite characters in his own novels, he said he likes Shirakawa (he’s not like me at all). He likes cats. The talking cats in Kafka.
When asked who should direct films made from his books, “I like David Lynch. Woody Allen. I have no idea.”
HM likes Japanese food. Sashimi. Sushi. Tofu. He asked the audience member who asked him whether he likes food, “Do you like tofu? It’s good. It’s good for your body.”
He ends the session by saying, “Seaweed is great.”