Haruki Murakami profiled in Time
Murakami has been embraced abroad as no other Japanese writer has. His books have been translated into about 40 languages. (In Japan, where Murakami is also regarded as an accomplished translator of American literature, the flow is neatly reversed: his recent rendering of The Great Gatsby sat atop the best-seller list for seven weeks.) Last October in Prague, he was awarded the prestigious Kafka Prize, dedicated to authors whose work "addresses the readers regardless of their origin, nationality and culture." It's difficult to imagine a better recipient than Murakami, who today splits his time between Tokyo and universities in the U.S. "The first [Murakami] story I translated for The New Yorker, they asked me to put in a Japanese reference at the top," says Philip Gabriel, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of Arizona. "He was so nonspecific to Japan that readers didn't realize where he was from."
A strong sense of otherness has always been in Murakami's nature. It began with his early preference for foreign novels (to the chagrin, one presumes, of his parents, who were both teachers of Japanese literature). It continues to this day in the deliberate distance he keeps from Japan's literary community, and in his abstemious mode of living. "Writers and artists are supposed to live a very unhealthy, bohemian kind of life," says Murakami. "But I just wanted to do it differently." So he rises at 4 a.m. to write for hours before swimming or running, training for marathons and lately triathlons as well. Murakami says he needs the exercise to keep up his stamina for the draining work of writing — the prolificacy of his output is legendary — but there's also an element of physical pleasure in his declaration that he weighs as much now, aged 58, as he did in his late 20s.