In the chaotic world after the Cold War and the September 11 2001 attacks, Japanese author Haruki Murakami says metaphors can be even more powerful than what’s real — a reason why his surreal books are read worldwide.
“I think people are gradually starting to understand and accept the realness of unreal things,” Murakami, one of the most widely read Japanese novelists in the world, told Reuters in a rare media interview.
“While it is necessary to write about the post-Cold War ways of the world, no matter how realistically it may be written, it can’t be expressed sufficiently. The only way it could be written about is through metaphors,” he said.
The 60-year-old novelist, a regular in Nobel literature prize predictions, has been writing in Japanese for three decades. His novels, short stories and essays have been translated into more than 40 languages.
In May, he published the two-volume, 1,055-page novel “1Q84,” a title suggestive of George Orwell’s “1984” as the Japanese word for 9 is pronounced the same as the English letter “Q.”
“First, there was George Orwell’s 1984, a novel about the near future… I wanted to write something that was the opposite of that, a novel on the recent past that shows how things could have been,” Murakami said.
The book alternates chapters between two characters, a female named Aomame and a male named Tengo. It deals with themes such as cults and abuse, loss, as well as sex, love and murder.
Incidents such as the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities and the Tokyo subway gas attack in 1995 by a religious cult drove Murakami to write the novel.
“To me, 9/11 does not feel like an incident that took place in the real world. Somewhere, there must be a world in which this didn’t happen,” he said.
“I am always doubtful about whether this world that I am in now is the real one. Somewhere in me, I feel there is a world that may not have been this way.”
Over 2.2 million copies of “1Q84” had been printed in Japan as of October.
For more of the interview: Japan’s Murakami says metaphor more real after 9/11