Fans converge on bookstores to snap up Haruki Murakami’s latest work

by

Staff Writer

Harukists, the die-hard fans of Japan’s leading author, Haruki Murakami, gathered late at night Thursday in bookstores nationwide to purchase the writer’s long-awaited latest work, which went on sale as soon as the clock struck midnight.

The book is titled “Kishidancho Goroshi” (“Killing Commendatore”). Two volumes of the title, “Arawareru Idea” and “Utsurou Metaphor,” loosely translated as “Appearing Idea” and “Changing Metaphor,” were both released on Friday.

The release will be delayed at least a day in Hokkaido due to freight train derailment, according to the publisher.

It is the first time for Murakami, 68, to release a long story from Shinchosha Publishing Co. since “1Q84,” of which the last volume was published in 2010.

The publisher announced in November that Murakami’s new novel would be released in February, but details were not disclosed at the time.

The latest book is of a man living in the mountains whose life starts to change after encountering the “Commendatore,” meaning commander in Italian.

“I love the unique world that Murakami writes, as well as the metaphorical expressions that he uses,” said Shingo Kawamorita, a 20-year-old college student who waited in a line made in front of Books Kinokuniya in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward where a countdown event was held commemorating the release of the books. Kinokuniya staff said up to 100 people attended the event.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time. It feels great to share the joy with other fans nationwide,” he said, adding that he will be staying up all night to finish reading.

The store usually operates from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. However, after the countdown, bookworms were allowed to purchase the new books from midnight until 1 a.m., and once again from 8 a.m. to commemorate the special day.

Similar events were scheduled in other bookstores nationwide, including Tsutaya’s bookstore branches in Tokyo, Osaka and in Fukushima, Kochi and Fukuoka prefectures.

A Shinchosha spokeswoman said 500,000 copies each of the books totaling 1 million were printed in its first edition. Also, 200,000 copies of the first volume and 100,000 copies of the second were already reprinted before it went on sale.

“We don’t usually hear a number as big as 1 million copies for hard-cover books,” said Tsuneo Matsushita, a spokesman for Books Sanseido’s main branch in Jinbocho. He said although it has become difficult to sell hard-cover books, the store has high expectations for Murakami’s new work.

Books Sanseido held a special event in Jinbocho early Friday, letting up to 30 customers who purchased Murakami’s new book stay in the store until morning to finish reading it.

“It’s the first time for us to open the store at midnight,” said Matsushita, adding that although Murakami has always been famous, it was possibly with the release of “1Q84” in 2009 that his popularity soared.

“It’s only because of Haruki Murakami that we can celebrate this way,” he said.

Murakami debuted in 1979 with “Hear the Wind Sing,” which had won the 22nd Gunzo Prize for New Writers. More than 10 million copies of his signature novel “Norwegian Wood” have been published, and every year fans expect him to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

“I hear that (Murakami) is annoyed with people making a big deal” out of him winning the prize, said Kawamorita. “I try to stay calm out of respect for him, but in the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing him the best luck.”