A war of words has erupted between librarians and a newspaper after it published a snapshot of the high school reading habits of famed novelist Haruki Murakami.
Leaked library borrowing cards from half a century ago revealed the teenage Murakami — nowadays a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in literature — checked out several titles by French writer Joseph Kessel.
The Japan Library Association lashed out monday at what it said was an invasion of the publicity-shy writer’s privacy.
“Disclosing the records of what books were read by a user, without the individual’s consent, violates the person’s privacy,” said an association report.
The Kobe Shimbun, which published the report, stood by its decision Tuesday, saying that what the 66-year-old Murakami read decades ago is in the public interest.
“Mr. Murakami is a person whose work and how he developed his literature are a subject for scholarly study,” said Hideaki Ono, assistant managing editor of the Kobe Shimbun. “He is known to have profound knowledge of British and American literature. But (the cards) showed he also explored French literature in his younger days. We believed these facts are of high public interest.”
The controversy began when a volunteer at Kobe High School, the author’s alma mater, found three books with cards still attached showing a student named “Haruki Murakami” was among those who had borrowed them.
The volumes were discovered among old library books about to be discarded by the school, the report by the library association said.
The volunteer contacted the newspaper.
The school has apologized for the information being divulged, the library association report said.
Murakami, whose novels center on the absurdity of modern life, has not publicly commented on the furor.
Kessel was a well-known literary figure in France whose books continue to be read.
His works include “The Lion” and “Belle De Jour,” which inspired a film of the same name starring Catherine Deneuve.