Haruki Murakami and His Early Work first discusses Murakami Haruki’s real-life activities and interests, such as his self-identity as a Japanese novelist, his position in the Japanese literary canon, music, translation and running. In this context, three short stories as pivotal to his early writing career are examined, including “The Second Bakery Attack,” “The Elephant Vanishes,” and “TV People.” Written in an easy style to read, and with the content full of references to select contemporary popular culture and consumer products, his fiction in general tends to invite criticism of irrelevance and frivolity. Against their nonsensical, even humorous appearance, however, the book’s close analysis reveals his persistent concern with the plight of today’s humanity in postindustrial reality. Through the bewildering stories, Murakami delivers a covert critique of aspects of the sociopolitical system, including unbridled consumerism, relentless pursuit of efficiency, and electronic media saturation, that brings people into total submission without their realization of the plight in which they are placed. In this respect, these short stories rival his acclaimed novels while showing his essential concerns and literary creativity more succinctly.
Masaki Mori is associate professor and head of the department of comparative literature and intercultural studies at the University of Georgia.
Chapter 1: Murakami’s Self-Conscious Ambivalence as a Japanese Writer
Chapter 2: Beyond National Canonicity: Murakami and the Japanese Literary Canon
Chapter 3: Translation as a Beneficial Diversion for Murakami’s Fiction Writing
Chapter 4: “The Second Bakery Attack”: The Induced Burial of Young Aspirations
Chapter 5: “The Elephant Vanishes”: What Efficiency Produces
Chapter 6: “TV People”: The Slick Assault by Electronic Media
Chapter 7: Televisual Appropriation and Fear in “TV People” and Ringu
In this outstanding series of essays, Masaki Mori probes in insightful and illuminating ways the origins, motivations, and implications as well as both Western and Japanese influences on the early writings of Murakami Haruki, the renowned contemporary Japanese author admired for the sense of loneliness that pervades his art. Mori draws out supranational and magical realist aspects of Murakami as keys to understanding the continuing worldwide popularity of his diverse publications. The book’s Appendix provides a useful bibliography of Murakami’s works and their translations.
In this fine, cross-cultural study, Masaki Mori draws an intriguing portrait of Haruki Murakami--one of those controversial contemporary writers who do not belong to one national culture or literary cannon, but to the global literary community as a whole. Through his perceptive, close analyses of Murakami’s early short stories, Professor Mori reveals this enigmatic, cosmopolitan writer’s essential humanism that runs through his forty-year long artistic career. He shows in careful detail how underneath Murakami’s occasionally flippant and absurdist fiction, or his problematization of contemporary life through a uniquely humorous artistic vision, lies this writer’s profound humanistic concern about the precarious existential condition in which we moderns have placed ourselves, as well as his deep distrust of the bureaucratic power structures that we have allowed to control our lives. Masaki Mori’s study, written in an accessible and elegant style, is not only a valuable contribution to a better, in-depth understanding of one of the most popular contemporary Japanese writers, but also an exemplary critical addition to the burgeoning field of intercultural studies within a global reference frame.