Music has always played an important, if not vital, role in the life of the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Long before he ever seriously took up a pen, he was the owner of a jazz bar called the Peter Cat, he's a fanatic record collector and goes regularly to concerts. So it won't come as a complete surprise to learn that his work is peppered with references to music.
A considerable number of his novels and short stories take their titles directly from songs - the most famous examples being Norwegian Wood, Dance Dance Dance (from the Rat Trilogy) and his short story The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanamea.
The ubiquitous intertextuality in his work creates a vast network of links to other art forms that help you, as the reader, to grab on to these familiar elements whilst navigating the surreal and ever changing world(s) that Murakami creates. Music often adds an extra dimension here, and an understanding or appreciation of Murakami's musical layer can lead to a deeper appreciation of his work. But not always. You can't take anything for granted with Murakami. Sometimes the music's illustrative, sometimes it's just there as, well, background music. Or it can combine with other songs in his stories to tell us more about the characters, environment, atmosphere or time period.
Murakami may be no musician, but he is certainly musical. Jay Rubin, Murakami's frequent translator and author of Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words, cites rhythm as one of the most important elements of Murakami's prose. He also describes how this rhythm contributes to the reader's enjoyment of his work, and how it transports you to Murakami's frequently visited parallel world: the pysche.
It's impossible for the reader to escape or ignore music in Murakami's work. On Booktunes you can find the music to accompany your favourite story. Read, listen and let the rhythm of the text and the melody of the music take you to another world.
text by E. de Loor / translation by W. Georgi / drawing by Ytje