Excitement builds in Japan for new Murakami novel
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami signs autographs 30 October 2006 in Prague. The wait is nearly over for thousands of readers eager to get their hands on the new Murakami novel, which should be released on Friday.
At least one major bookstore in Tokyo is flinging open its doors at midnight to cater to the demands of the most dedicated acolytes of the surrealist.
Other major outlets are planning to open early on Friday to meet the expected surge in demand.
"Readers in Japan have craved a new book from him for so long," said Yuta Takahashi of Daikanyama T-Site bookstore in Tokyo, which is hosting the late-night launch.
So far, excited "Harukists" have been told virtually nothing about the book bar its Japanese-only title: "Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi".
An unofficial translation renders it: "Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of his Pilgrimage".
Beyond that, there is a void. But the secrecy surrounding the release, Murakami's first in three years, has not prevented it racing up the book charts.
Online giant Amazon Japan had taken 20,000 pre-orders by the weekend and publisher Bungeishunju said its initial print run would be an astonishing 500,000 copies -- roughly one for every 250 people in Japan.
The absence of any concrete details has sparked speculation about the work of an author who delights in setting riddles for characters and readers alike.
Literary critic Yoshinori Shimizu has speculated that, when written in the alphabet, "Tazaki Tsukuru" -- which appears to be a man's name -- is an anagram of "Tsuzuku Tikara", a phonetic rendering of a phrase that could mean "continuing strength".
"Is it 'continuation' in a positive sense or a negative way?" he told the Sankei Shimbun.
"It is extremely interesting as it seemingly alludes to something to do with the time after the major quake disaster" of 2011 that destroyed Japan's northern Pacific coastal communities, he told the newspaper.
Others have pointed out that the title may be a deliberate echo of a collection of piano pieces called "Years of Pilgrimage" by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt.
Murakami, who divides his time between Japan and the United States, is rarely seen in public, lending further mystique to works praised for their lyrical surrealism and fantastical characters.
His most recent work, the three-part "1Q84", baffled and delighted readers with its parallel universes in which the lives of a female murderer and a male novelist intertwine.
"1Q84", which can be read as "1984" in Japanese, proved a worldwide phenomenon.
"The last book (1Q84) was read by many people," Takahashi said. "So expectations for this one are inevitably running high."
Murakami's novels, which have drawn international acclaim and been translated into around 40 languages, include "Norwegian Wood", "Kafka on the Shore" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle".
Ahead of the book's release, Murakami -- frequently mentioned as a possible Nobel literature laureate -- has been typically tight-lipped.
"I intended to write a short story at first, but it has become a long piece naturally as I go on," he said. "This does not happen often in my case, maybe for the first time since 'Norwegian Wood' I guess."
"'1Q84' was a story somewhat like a roller coaster, so I wanted to write something a bit different from that. I had no idea what it would be like until I started writing."
Readers are counting down the hours until they find out.
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