The literary world went into a predictable tizzy when Haruki Murakami released his latest book after a gap of seven years. Titled Killing Commendatore (in English), the novel is available only in Japanese right now – the English translation might take over a year to reach your nearest bookstores.

What’s a Murakami fan who can’t read Japanese to do, except look back at his oeuvre and read his best books until then?

 

Kafka On The Shore

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This is one of the most widely read novels by Murakami, and for good reason. The book tells two separate stories featuring World War II survivors, and a protagonist who speaks with cats as if that’s totally normal. Blending reality, sexuality, memories and Japanese pop culture, this is a book that must be read at least twice to fully savour the author’s beautiful imagery and surrealism. Kafka On The Shore is alluring, mysterious, informative and is set in Murakami’s strange land of magic realism that every reader needs to visit at least once.

 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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When Toru Okada’s cat and wife (in that order) leave him suddenly, they sets off a chain of events. This involves a list of bizarre characters such as a morbid young teenager, an ambitious and ruthless politician brother-in-law, a psychic reader and her prostitute sister (who sleeps with Okada in his dreams) and an aging soldier who recounts Japan’s bloody World War II campaign in Manchuria in graphic detail. This 600-page book goes in so many directions, but Murakami masterfully ties all the threads together in a knot in the end.

 

Dance Dance Dance

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Drawing on themes of loss and abandonment, this is a breezy read laced with humour. Telling the story of a middle-aged man who encounters a Sheep Man at a hotel and falls for a girl called Yuki – all while undergoing a midlife crisis – Dance Dance Dance is a book about death that is full of life. It’s also rumoured that many of the experiences recorded in this book are autobiographical.

 

1Q84

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1Q84 tells the story of Tokyo in 1984, with the Q standing in for a question mark. From religious nuts and charming assassins, to gay bodyguards and loving a ghost, Murakami creates a world that draws you in with familiarity and then carries you forward breathlessly as his lead characters, Tengo and Aomame, do impossible things. Over the course of the novel, the separate stories begin to come together in a way only Murakami could have orchestrated. He takes you on a journey across worlds and characters with only one emotion binding everything together – love. Even a diehard cynic will marvel at how romantically Murakami syncs 1Q84.

 

Norwegian Wood

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Murakami himself might not like this one, but there is no denying why this simple story of love, loss and anguish sold millions of copies and first catapulted the author to international fame. Underlying Tokyo’s Student Revolution and political climate is the simple story of love that makes and wrecks Toru Watanabe, the protagonist, as readers soak in the knowledge that romance is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

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Cover Image Courtesy: Random House UK

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