Who wrote a book that sold at over a million copies in one month, with hard copies gone before the end of the first day and averaging online at more than 1 a minute? You might be forgiven for thinking JK Rowling or Dan Brown, but the truth is the title goes to a Japanese author Haruki Murakami.
Born post-World War II, he was influenced in his youth by western literature and eventually published a series of books recently culminating in 1Q84. Originally released in Japan two years ago, the hype has led to its recent French translation already hitting re-prints with over 400,000 sold. The coming English translation has two translators working on it and is already on the top 20 list of online booksellers Amazon.com. In fact, the percentage of buyers ordering a hard copy is 70% compared to just 30% requesting a digital copy. This somewhat irregular balance is suggested to be a result of readers wishing to have a physical connection with the book itself, only further demonstrating the power of his writing.
His books are a sharp divergence from traditional Japanese literary work, touching on topics that hold significance across all cultures and is perhaps the first Asian writer to have such massive impact upon the international literary world. His status is further enhanced by the fact that his work is not an original English work but a translation. His stories also focus less on a “Japanese” theme and is able to bind readers in a way much like Harry Potter translated. His work and inspiration serves to give other budding Asian authors a beacon in which to seek a wider audience. I, for one, will be picking up a copy of 1Q84 soon and look forward to joining the millions of other readers who have been touched by his magic. JK Rowling may have come from hardship to hit thousands of young hearts but Haruki Murakami broke more than just the financial barrier; he broke the racial barrier with the power of the written word alone.
I must confess I’ve only read bits and pieces of his writing, but I’m am trying to source his earlier works, without going online. I’m just disappointed that the news doesn’t even mention this phenomenon (at least not in Australia).