January 7, 2015

Dear Haruki Murakami


Your new agony uncle. Image via Random House

Your new agony uncle. Image via Random House

What do you do if you’re a self-confessed loner, recluse and a reluctant talker, who also happens to have sold millions of novels worldwide and has a matching number of ardent fans desperate to gain access to you?

It’s clearly a conundrum that Haruki Murakami has been considering for some time. Now, Japan’s most successful living author has spoken: “After so long, I want to exchange emails with readers,” he told his publisher, who told the press, who told us.

Murakami’s Japanese publisher, Shinchosha Publishing announced yesterday that the writer will answer questions from fans submitted through a new website “Murakami-san no tokoro” or “Mr. Murakami’s place”. What’s more, according to a spokesman, Murakami will “receive questions of any kind”, and in a number of languages.

But it’s quickly become apparent that this will be no ordinary Q&A. As well as answering questions on his likes and dislikes, and presumably a few queries about his writing career, according to his publisher Murakami will go one step further. He is happy to offer advice on how to tackle life’s difficulties and give his opinions on any personal enquiries submitted to him. The statement “questions of any kind” really does mean of any kind.

He may still have not clinched the Nobel Prize but who needs Swedish accolades when you can offer yourself up to millions as an international agony uncle? When you chose to open up your inbox and your heart to humankind in all of its raw, painful, beautiful and tragic complexities and problems. After so much silence, just think of all the words ready to pour from Murakami.

And if you think the question of why Murakami would chose to do this, he who has lived in isolated bliss from the riff-raff of readers for most of his writing career is a big one, turn to the biggest question of them all: What? What can you possibly ask Murakami that will be worthy of this momentous occasion and his precious time?

I don’t know the answer to that, so instead here are a few things Not to Ask Haruki Murakami, Internationally Adored Writer Who Is Finally Giving You Some of His Time So Don’t Waste It*:

Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer like me?

Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met?

Cats or dogs?

Sunset or sunrise?

Reading or writing?

Are you a morning person or an evening person?

Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person?

I’ve written a short story collection, and I think you might like it. Can I send it to you?

Selfies: what’s that all about?

Ditto Kim Kardashian.

Is it important for aspiring writers to have a good social media presence?

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

If a tree falls in a forest, etc?

How do I get an agent? Who is your agent? Do you think they would represent me? I write a lot like you.

Have you ever met Thomas Pynchon? What about JD Salinger, did you two ever hang out?

Should I quit my job as a corporate lawyer to try and make it as a crime writer?

Who would be your dream dinner party guests? And you can’t include Kafka!

Is the novel dead?

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

*Some of these are questions I’ve heard at book readings, and others are popular questions exchanged between other human beings that Murakami should not be bothered with.



Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.