More than a simple authors roundup or our latest book recommendations, this list hopes to introduce readers and fans of Haruki Murakami to similar Japanese authors. In other words, we’re diving a little bit deeper than doing a blanket grouping of “contemporary Japanese authors” — also because we’ve already done that in this 2018 article .
What Makes Murakami So Readable?
First, let’s have a round of applause for Murakami’s go-to Japanese-to-English translator, Philip Gabriel, without whom the majority of Murakami’s English bibliography would not be available. And Gabriel’s work certainly is a big part of why Murakami remains one of the most translated and well-known contemporary Japanese authors in recent decades.
So, what makes Murakami so damn readable?
Well, like much of literature classics, Murakami’s choice of themes simply falls into what we would classify as “relatable.” At the core, the author gravitates towards existential crises or (though often and) trauma. Add to that Murakami’s talent for magic realism — or, as I like to see it, a concretization of our yearning for escapism — and a cynical sense of humor, and there you have it: the heart of the human experience, in all its beauty and grotesqueness — because life is not only sunshine and butterflies.
If You Love Murakami, Try Reading…
While Murakami has become a master of his genre, there are some other authors you might enjoy reading. Below is a list of three authors to read when you’ve exhausted your Murakami to be read (TBR) list.
1. Yoko Ogawa — For stories exploring existential dread
One author that Murakami fans often recommend to one another is Milan Kundera, due to both authors’ tendencies to explore existentialism through storytelling. Among the list of Japanese authors available in English, however, Yoko Ogawa does stand out for her stories that often revolve around the main characters’ existential dread.
Her most recent translation is Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales , translated by Stephen Snyder. Her top novels, however, remain The Diving Pool and The Housekeeper and the Professor, both also translated by Snyder. For French speakers, you’re in luck. Ogawa’s books are well translated into French. In fact, you might have more options. A top recommendation from us is Cristallisation secrète, translated by Rose-Marie Makino-Fayolle.
2. Ryu Murakami — For more of the dark side of human beings
Haruki Murakami does not stray from exposing the dark side of the human mind, often in the way of grotesque passages. Rarely will he sugarcoat a character’s traumatic experiences.
Ryu Murakami, in addition to sharing a last name, shares this fascination with the macabre. His stories are not for the faint of heart, but for readers who love to hate main characters or antagonists, or simply like to have their minds boggled a little bit (or a lot), you cannot go wrong with books such as In the Miso Soup and Coin Locker Babies.
While Ryu doesn’t quite adventure so much into magic realism, his stories do have an eerie atmosphere to them.
3. Tomihiko Morimi — For magic realism on steroids
Perhaps what makes Murakami so memorable and addictive is his mastery of the magic realism genre. And while Murakami certainly did not invent it, for many readers outside of Japan he is their first introduction to it. If your favorite thing about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicl e or 1Q84 was the involvement of fantastical elements and people, Tomohiko Morimi could be an author you may equally enjoy.
Morimi is not yet well translated into English, though you can find a few of his key works in translation. That includes The Night is Long, Walk on Girl and the very much underrated Penguin Highway .
If you still aren’t sold, both of the titles mentioned above have movie adaptations, which you can watch on Netflix, though we heavily recommend reading the books first.
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