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A fluent English-speaker, Haruki Murakami is also a talented translator of American fiction into Japanese. He was born in Kyoto, Japan, and grew up in Kobe, where as a high school student he read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler, Richard Brautigan and Truman Capote, all in the original. When he writes a book, Murakami keeps to a strict regimen: to bed at 9:00 pm, waking at 4:00 am without the aid of an alarm clock (also, he claims to never dream), writing straight through the morning to 11:00 a.m., every day, seven days a week, until the book is done. Then he exercises for an hour or two, in order to keep up his stamina for writing.
His first novel was Hear the Wind Sing (1979, trans. 1987). Those that followed include A Wild Sheep Chase (1982, trans. 1989), Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985, trans. 1991), Norwegian Wood (1987, trans. 1989), Dance, Dance, Dance (1988, trans. 1993), The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995, trans. 1998), The Sputnik Sweetheart (1999, trans. 2001), Kafka on the Shore (2002, trans. 2005), and After Dark (2004, trans. 2007). His short story collections include The Elephant Vanishes (trans. 1993), After the Quake (trans. 2002), and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006), a collection of English translations of short stories written over a span of many years. He has also done many translations. His first nonfiction book, Underground (2001), is an oral history of the 1995 sarin gas attack by the religious extremist group, Aum Shinrikyo, in the Tokyo subway and its relation to the Japanese psyche. His fiction has been adapted for stage and a short story, Tony Takitani, has been made into a feature film.
Murakami won the Yomiuri Prize for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It was awarded to him by one of his harshest former critics, Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. In 2006, Murakami became the sixth recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize from the Czech Republic for his novel Kafka on the Shore. In 2004 and 2005, recipients of the Franz Kafka Prize also won the Nobel Prize in Literature.