Haruki Murakami: The apocalyptic moment when I decided to write

By orchioo Feb24,2023

In life, falling in love with something is as accidental as falling in love with a person. Someone sails, someone rides, someone grows flowers, someone collects seashells on the beach, and of course, someone writes.
When you decide to be with something, there must be a moment of excitement, but some are more intense and some are more hidden. Mo Yan writes in order to be able to eat dumplings for three meals a day; Yu Hua writes in order to have a job that is too busy; and Wang Xiaobo “believes that I have literary talent, and I should do this.”
The starting point of Haruki Murakami’s writing is full of mysticism, a bit of epiphany, and even a bit of oracle, which is short of the bridge of the dream of the white-bearded grandfather. He is qualified to say that, a flash of thought more than 40 years ago has persisted until now, which is very similar to the love story of a millennium at a glance.
He wrote this “apocalyptic moment” into his creative autobiography, with a little casual encouragement: do it when you think of it, even if you are not prepared, what if?

At the end of his twenties, the business of the small shop in Sendagaya finally stabilized. Although there is still a large amount of arrears that have not been paid off, and although the turnover fluctuates greatly with the change of seasons, we cannot take it lightly, but as long as we persist in this way, we can finally deal with it.

I don’t think I have much business talent, and I am not good at socializing by nature. I am not a social character, and obviously I am not suitable for the service industry. However, my saving grace is that as long as it is something I like, I will work hard and do it wholeheartedly. I think it is because of this that the operation of the small shop is so-so and smooth. After all, I love music very much. As long as I am engaged in music-related work, I am basically happy. But looking back, I am nearly thirty years old. The period that can be called the youth age is about to end, and I remember a somewhat strange feeling: “Oh, the so-called life is so fleeting.”

On a sunny afternoon in April 1978, I went to Jingu Stadium to watch a baseball game. It was the opening game of the Central League that year, with the Yakult Swallows playing against the Hiroshima Carp. The matinee kicks off at 1:00 p.m. I was a fan of the Yakult Swallows at the time, and I lived very close to the Jingu Stadium (next to the Hatomori Hachiman Shrine in Sendagaya), and I often stopped by to watch a game while walking.

You must know that the Yakult Swallows team was very weak at that time, Wannian B-level, the team was poor, and there were no well-known stars, so of course they were not very popular. Although it was the opening game, there were very few spectators in the outfield seats. I was reclining on the outfield mat alone, drinking beer and watching the game. At that time, there were no seats in the outfield of Jingu Stadium, only a slope covered with green grass. I still remember being very happy. The sky is clear, the draft beer is cold, and the white balls are clearly reflected on the long-lost green lawn. As for baseball, you still have to go to the stadium to watch it. I really want to.

Yakult’s leading batsman was Dave Hilton, a lean no-name from the United States. He’s at the top of the batting order. The fourth batter was Charlie Manuel, who later became famous as the head coach of the Phillies, and was then a powerful and sharp hitter who was called “red ghost” by Japanese baseball fans.

Hiroshima Carp’s leading pitcher seems to be Takahashi. The Yakult team is headed by Yasuda. In the bottom half of the first inning, Takahashi threw the first pitch, and Hilton hit the ball beautifully to left field for a double. The refreshing and crisp sound of the bat hitting the ball resounded through Jingu Stadium. Pa la pa la, there were sparse applause all around. At this time, a thought suddenly popped up without warning and without reason: “By the way, maybe I can write novels.”

The feeling at that time is still fresh in my memory. It seemed that something was slowly falling from the sky, and I spread my hands to catch it firmly. How it happened to fall into my palm, I know nothing of. I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now. Reasons aside, it just happened. How should I put it, it was like an apocalypse. There is a word in English called “epiphany”, which translates to difficult words such as “the sudden appearance of the essence” and “intuitively grasping the truth”. To put it more plainly, it is actually the feeling of “one day, something suddenly flashed in front of my eyes, so everything changed.” This is exactly what happened to me that afternoon. With this as a boundary, my life situation changed drastically. It was the moment when Dave Hilton, as the first hitter, hit a smart and powerful double base at Jingu Stadium.

After the game (I remember that game was won by the Yakult team), I took the tram to Kinokuniya in Shinjuku and bought manuscript paper and pens (SAILOR brand, 2,000 yen). At that time neither word processors nor personal computers were popularized, so we had to write each word by hand. But there was a very fresh feeling, and my heart was beating wildly. Because it has been a long time since I used a pen to write on manuscript paper.

Late at night, after working in the store, I sit at the kitchen table and start writing my novel. Except for the few hours before dawn, I have almost no free time. In this way, it took me almost half a year to write a novel “Listen to the Wind Singing” (it was called another title at first). The first draft was written and the baseball season was almost over. By the way, that year the Yakult Swallows surpassed most people’s expectations, won the league championship, and defeated the Hankyu Warriors, which had the strongest pitching lineup, in the All Japan Unified Championship Finals. It was a miraculously good season.

On a Sunday morning in spring, the editor of “Group Portrait” called me and told me: “Brother Murakami’s entry has broken into the final round of the Newcomer Award.” It has been nearly a year since the opening game at Jingu Stadium, I have passed my thirtieth birthday. I remember it was after eleven o’clock in the morning, because I hadn’t woken up from work until late at night the day before, and I was sleepy. Although I had the receiver in my hand, I couldn’t understand what the other party was trying to tell me. I even (really speaking) forgot about submitting to the editorial office of Group Portrait. As soon as I finished writing it and handed it over to someone, my feeling of “wanting to write something” was relieved. Speaking of it, it is nothing more than a new work, written with pen and paper, and completed in one go. I never thought that this kind of thing could break into the final round of selection. Not even a copy of the manuscript was left. Therefore, if it hadn’t broken into the final selection, this work would definitely disappear forever. And I probably won’t write any more novels. Life is such a wonderful thing to think about.

The apocalyptic moment when I decided to write

I still clearly remember the feeling when that thing flew into my palm on a spring afternoon more than 30 years ago on the outfield of Jingu Stadium; my palm also remembers another spring afternoon a year later, Body temperature of an injured pigeon picked up next to Sendagaya Elementary School. When I think about the meaning of “writing a novel”, I always recall those feelings. For me, such memory means believing that there must be something in me, and dreaming of the possibility of giving birth to it. It is a wonderful thing that this feeling still remains with me today.

By orchioo

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