One World? Or How Many? Haruki Murakami as a Global Author

Seminars and Colloquia

Every year the same spectacle takes place: Japanese author Haruki Murakami ranks among the top candidates for the Nobel Prize in literature. The whole nation anxiously follows the news and speculates about the reason why he has missed out on it again.

Murakami, who entered the literary scene in the early 1980s, is known for his light and “cool” narrative style, inspired, as the author himself suggests, by American literature. He has been translated into well over 50 languages and has succeeded in establishing himself in numerous countries and languages, building a reputation as a globalized author beyond the "Japan" brand. In this sense, he stands as an example of the "de-nationalized" and "culturally odorless" cultural production that scholars like Koichi Iwabuchi consider to be at the core of Japanese strategies of glocalization. At the same time, as an author who locates himself on the border between “high” and “popular” literature, he questions some of the presuppositions of globalization theories that refer primarily to transnational flows of popular culture rather than literary forms.

The aim of this talk was to look behind the scenes and to explore the mechanisms of the creation of this author’s global stature. To what extent are they based on his writing, his particular topics, style, and other issues of “content”? Other aspects are worth noting, such as translation policy, marketing, and the creation of a certain authorial image. While we can, for instance, speculate about the role of the international prizes that help to determine and systematically expand his profile as a global author, the author’s own agency is not easy to discern. The talk shed light on some of these aspects, in particular on the role of (American) English and of translation in general, leading to surprising, if not upsetting conclusions.

Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit is Chair and Professor of Japanese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin since 1991, em. since 2019. Her research fields include modern Japanese literature, Comparative Literature, Sociolinguistics, Cultural Semiotics, Culinary Studies, Translation Studies and History of Japan Research.

Clemena Antonova, Research Director of the Eurasia in Global Dialogue program at IWM, moderated the discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.