Fans of Haruki Murakami lined up at bookstores from the wee hours of Friday morning to be the first to get their hands on the famed author’s much-anticipated new novel.

“Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi,” (“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”) — the first novel penned by Murakami since his “1Q84” trilogy was released from 2009 to 2010 — already has a prerelease print run of half a million copies.

“I must be at work at 7:30 a.m., so I have about an hour to start reading. I will probably spend my lunch break reading the book as well,” a female Murakami fan, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Japan Times.

The 32-year-old was one of dozens of people waiting in line at the Sanseido bookstore, which opened its doors 90 minutes earlier than usual at 6 a.m. for the book release, inside Tokyo Station.

“This store is one of the first to open today, so I drove my car from Funabashi (Chiba Prefecture). I just couldn’t wait,” she said.

More than 100 hardcore fans of Murakami, who has been repeatedly mentioned as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, also formed lines at the Tsutaya bookstore in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, at midnight Thursday.

The new novel, published by Bungei Shunju Ltd., begins with the 36-year-old Tsukuru Tasaki looking back at his suicidal past and his severed relationships with old friends. But the story thereafter had been kept a strict secret until it went on sale.

“I haven’t read it myself, because the books only arrived earlier this morning,” Shunsuke Goto, manager of the Sanseido store in Tokyo Station, said, adding it was the first time he had opened the store early for a book release.

The store received an initial shipment of 600 copies. About 50 were set aside for customers who had made reservations, but Goto expected at least half of the rest to have been sold by the end of the day.

“Hopefully the 600 copies will last over the weekend, but we are not sure,” he said.

Murakami, who rarely makes public appearances or gives interviews, has said through his publisher that he initially set out to write a short story but that it turned into “a long piece naturally, during the process of writing.”

” ‘1Q84’ was a roller coaster of a story, so I wanted to write something a bit different from that,” the author said.

A 28-year-old Murakami fan, who was in line by 5:50 a.m. Friday to purchase a copy at the Sanseido store, said she has “been in love” with his works for over a decade.


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