This 2023 Princess of Asturias Prize for Letters bears the name of Haruki Murakami (Kyoto, 1949). The Japanese writer was proclaimed the winner yesterday for "the uniqueness of his literature, his universal reach and his ability to reconcile the Japanese tradition and the legacy of Western culture", as indicated by the jury during a round of press in Oviedo.
Also, "his voice, expressed in different genres", was highlighted, since "it has reached very different generations" and his "ambitious and innovative narrative that has been able to express some of the great issues and conflicts of our time: the loneliness, existential uncertainty, the dehumanization of big cities, terrorism, but also the care of the body or one's own reflection on the creative task".
The Japanese writer adds a new literary recognition to his list of awards, which already includes the prestigious Franz Kafka (2006), Jerusalem (2009) or Hans Christian Andersen for Literature (2016). Not so with the Nobel, for which he is considered one of the eternal candidates. It's not something I've given more importance to. As he also does with his stories, "I never advance the outcome", he admitted to La Vanguardia.
Influenced by surrealism, his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and focuses on themes such as loneliness and alienation. His most successful novel is Norwegian Wood — Tòquio Blues, in Catalan and against the author's reluctance—, and has as its protagonist Toru Watanabe, an executive to whom a Beatles song takes him back to the turbulent Tokyo of the late sixties. The fame that the book gave him led him to leave Japan and move to different cities in Europe and the United States, although he ended up returning to his country in 1995, after the Kobe earthquake and the terrorist attack of sarin gas on the Tokyo subway, two events about which he would write years later in After the Earthquake and Underground.
His latest book, L a ciutat i seus murs incerts, arrived in Japan in mid-April and, as Empúries i Tusquets reported yesterday, will be published in Catalan and Spanish simultaneously in the spring of 2024. It is his first novel in six years after the two volumes of La mort del comanador. According to the Japanese publishing house Shinchosha, the story "makes the soul tremble".
The son of a Buddhist priest and a businesswoman from Osaka, both parents taught literature. Reading Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan would mark his career, as he has acknowledged on numerous occasions. These and other Western authors smeared his work and distinguished him from other Japanese writers, which has led the literary establishment to question whether or not his work is truly Japanese literature.
His love for music is evident in his work. There are many letters and references to which the author resorts, both in his texts and in his titles. In addition to Norwegian Wood, there is South of the border, west of the sun ( Al sud de la frontera, a l'oest del sol ), the first part of which is the title of a song by Nat King Cole, or Dance, Dance, Dance , a nod to the popular theme from The Dells. This hobby transcended paper, since for many years he ran a jazz club near Sendagaya station, in Tokyo. Of course, "when I start to write, I prefer silence", he was honest with this newspaper.
Equally unmissable are his literary debut Listen to the song of the wind, Kafka a la platja or 1Q84, among others. Some are inspired by episodes of his life, such as the recent P First person singular. ot and that, when this happens, he insists: "It may seem that it is full of autobiographical elements, but it does not mean that it happened as it is written".
La Vanguardia was the first medium to interview him in Spain in 2005, when he was barely known here, and even then the journalist Xavi Ayén warned: “Mu-ra-ka-mi. Four syllables to remember, which condense the universe of what is surely the greatest Japanese writer". He was right. The Japanese author has become the "great runner of contemporary literature", concluded the jury.