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Japanese Novelist Wins Franz Kafka Award (April 24, 2006)

A symposium on Murakami organized by the Japan Foundation [Photo by Atsuko Takagi (Courtesy The Japan Foundation)]
Japanese author Murakami Haruki, who is perhaps best known for his novel Norwegian Wood, won the Czech Republic's Franz Kafka Award for Literature in March. As two previous recipients of the Franz Kafka Award have gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, there are growing hopes that Murakami might one day win the world's most prestigious literary prize.

A Sense of the Fantastic That Transcends Borders
Franz Kafka was a famous Czech writer from the city of Prague known for such novels as The Metamorphosis. The prize named after him, which was created in 2001, is awarded to writers who have made a major contribution to highlighting the importance of ethnic culture. It has just marked its sixth year, and the annual winner receives $10,000.

Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949. He made his debut as an author in 1979, winning the Gunzo Award for New Writers for his work Hear the Wind Sing. Since then, he has released numerous short stories, essays, and novels, including the critically acclaimed A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. He has also translated works by such American writers as John Irving and Raymond Carver.

Murakami's works are very popular in translation, especially among young people, as they are easy to read. His 1987 novel Norwegian Wood became a worldwide smash hit, as have most of his subsequent works.

In his writing, Murakami sketches out unique worlds that are not limited by a sense of being in a particular country, and his books have been translated into a number of languages and published around the globe. He has a great number of fans not only in North America and Europe but also in Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Taiwan. His name has often graced best-seller lists in these places. Murakami is easily the most famous modern Japanese writer outside Japan.

The Japanese covers of Kafka on the Shore (Shinchosha Co.)

Hope for a New Nobel Laureate
Murakami's recent novel Kafka on the Shore was published in translation in the United States in 2005. (It was originally released in Japan in 2002.) This work was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2005 by the New York Times, and it also became a best-seller in China.

Murakami has followed a different pattern from many writers in that he has first achieved fame overseas and then brought his works back to Japan, as in the case of his short story "The Elephant Vanishes," which was carried in the US magazine The New Yorker before being imported to Japan and published.

This past March in Tokyo, the first international symposium on the works of Murakami Haruki was held, bringing together translators of his books and researchers from around the world for intensive discussions of his literature.

The recipients of the Franz Kafka Award in 2004 and 2005 both went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature that same year, so there are growing expectations in the domestic media that Murakami may become the third Japanese to win the world's most prestigious literary prize, following in the footsteps of Kawabata Yasunari and Oe Kenzaburo. Murakami is a writer who truly belongs to the world.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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