Haruki Murakami turns agony uncle

Haruki Murakami – most fervently adored novelist in Japan, cult hero worldwide, perennially tipped Nobel contender – is set to solicit questions from fans that he will answer through a column on a new website named Murakami-san no tokoro (Mr Murakami’s Place). Murakami’s publishers, Shinchosha Publishing, say the author ‘will receive questions of any kind’ and in ‘a variety of languages’, whether about himself or simply seeking his sagacity on a pressing issue.

Submissions will be welcomed until the end of January, with Murakami’s responses following throughout February and March. Shichosha quotes Murakami as saying ‘After so long, I want to exchange emails with readers.’ No URL for the site nor e-mail address for submissions has been made available as yet.

The project follows a similar undertaking in 2006 when, following the publication of his novel Kafka on the Shore, Murakami personally answered around 1,200 of over 8,000 questions about the book submitted by Japanese readers, to help them understand it further. The difference here, obviously, is that the questions need not be restricted purely to Murakami’s work or his most recent book (which, in this case, is 2013’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, first published in English in August 2014).

Long considered something of a recluse, Murakami fled his home country when the 1987 publication of his breakthrough work Norwegian Wood made him a superstar. In recent years, however, the author has displayed more of a willingness to engage his public, first with a 2013 public interview at Kyoto University in front of an audience of 500 following the launch of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki – his first public appearance in Japan for 18 years – then last year, for the book’s English translation, with appearances at the Edinburgh Book Festival and a signing at Waterstones Piccadilly.

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