Books | Murakami runs from soccer, to the distance

Murakami

As a sidebar to the Feb 29 entry (“A multihued archipelago, tuned to soccer’s harmonics”), part-time Hawai‘i resident Haruki Murakami reflects in a recent Spiegel Online interview on his sporting interests and their relationship to his writing (“When I Run I Am in a Peaceful Place,” Feb 20).

Murakami, 59, has run 27 marathons, having shunned team sports such as football. “Why did my real existence as a serious writer begin on the day that I first went jogging?” Murakami says. “I tend to understand things only if I record my thoughts. I found that when I write about running I write about myself.”

The Japanese author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore turned to writing following his ownership of a Tokyo jazz club. The revelation came, again, through sport:

In April 1978, I was watching a baseball game in the Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, the sun was shining, I was drinking a beer. And when Dave Hilton of the Yakult Swallows made a perfect hit, at that instant I knew I was going to write a novel. It was a warm sensation. I can still feel it in my heart. Now I am compensating for the old, open life through my new, closed life. I have never appeared on television, I have never been heard on the radio, I hardly ever give readings, I am extremely reluctant to have my photograph taken, I rarely give interviews. I’m a loner.

Murakami expresses distaste for Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959) author Alan Sillitoe, the chronicler of urban despair in such stories as “The Match.” The story concerns one man’s domestic ennui following a Notts County–Bristol City fixture. Speaking of Loneliness, Murakami says, “I wasn’t impressed by the book. It’s boring. You can tell that Sillitoe wasn’t a runner himself.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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  1. [...] Haruki Murakami, we mentioned a few days ago, did not take a shine to Sillitoe’s 1959 collection. He calls the Loneliness assemblage “boring” (see Mar 1). [...]

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