Haruki Murakami: How a Japanese writer conquered the world

Stephanie Hegarty in BBC News:

HarukiWhen Haruki Murakami's new book, 1Q84, was released in Japanese two years ago, most of the print-run sold out in just one day – the country's largest bookshop, Kinokuniya, sold more than one per minute. A million copies went in the first month. In France, publishers printed 70,000 copies in August but had to reprint within a week. The book is already on the top 20 list of online booksellers Amazon.com – hence the plans for midnight openings in the UK and across the US from New York to Seattle. “The last time we did this was for Harry Potter,” says Miriam Robinson of Foyles, just one of the bookshops in London opening at midnight for the launch. “It's hard to find a book that merits that kind of an event.” This is the kind of hype that usually surrounds serialised teen literature, says Paul Bogaards of Knopf, the book's US publishers. It is entirely unprecedented in the case of a work translated into English. The novel has been worked on by two English translators to speed up publication. At 1,600 pages, the book- which will come out in two parts in the UK – is not to be taken lightly. The book is set in an alternate 1984 – the title plays on the Japanese pronunciation of Q, which is the same as of the number nine. Its two main characters, a male novelist and a female serial killer, exist in parallel universes but are searching for each other as the novel winds its way between their worlds.

Classic Murakami themes are here in the new novel – love and loneliness, alternative and surreal worlds, enigmatic characters and people who seem impassive but are stirred by deep emotions. Not for the first time, questions are raised about free will and cult religion. “There really isn't anyone like him right now, he is completely different,” says Dan Pryce, a member of the sales staff at Waterstone's bookshop in central London, who has been reading the new book in spare moments, in the shop's basement. “I like the way he never really explains what is happening, he just presents storylines and just lets them flow. Also, there is no real resolution at the end of the book, which leaves you wanting more.

More here.