10 December 2006

Haruki the Hybrid

Emily Parker in today's Wall Street Journal profiles the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Here's a snippet that detours from the primary focus on how Murakami deals with Japan's dark past.
Even as he chooses to spend much of his time in Honolulu, Mr. Murakami appears to reveal the punctilious ways of his homeland. (He reminded me to take off my shoes before entering his home, an airy Hawaiian residence that offers a breath of quiet and anonymity for the celebrity writer. Then he promptly sat down at a light wood table--in formal repose--and looked at me expectantly, waiting for the interview to begin.) And as if to confirm this impression, the Kyoto-born Mr. Murakami says that, in some ways, he is 100% Japanese. "The difference," he says, "is that I'm kind of individualist."

In truth, he is a cultural hybrid. He has spent time living in the U.S., and in our conversation he jumps back and forth between English and Japanese. His own books are dotted with Western cultural references, and he has translated several American classics into his native language, such as the work of J.D. Salinger, Raymond Carver and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He claims to be somewhat of a black sheep in his home country, in part due to his distaste for drinking parties or social conversation. How about Karaoke? "I hate it," he says in Japanese. "If I enter a store and there is a Karaoke machine there, I leave immediately."

I wonder if the author knows that removing shoes at the door is a custom that is nearly universal in Hawai‘i.

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