Who’s read a Murakami book and not loved it? That’s right, nobody.  We went to hear the Japanese writer speak recently and found he was just as impressive – if surprisingly normal – in real life.

Haruki Murakami. The seven syllables that any inhabitant of the literary world is sure to have heard at least once. His works range from the surrealistic Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, to the more realistic Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

He posseses a distinct style that we have all come to recognise, so it was a little surprising to see how normal he seemed. Wearing a green shirt that said KEEP CALM AND READ MURAKAMI, mister Murakami was interviewed by John Freeman at the Auckland Writers Festival. Here are some memorable moments.

On the possibility that he may win a Nobel Prize:

No, I don’t want prizes – that means I’ve finished.


On whether the world is becoming a better place:

In the 1960s, we could be idealistic. Totally idealistic. It’s a mistake. We were wrong. The world didn’t get better, unfortunately. But in the 1960s, we believed that the world is getting better. I am still holding that idealistic belief in my mind.


On whether or not he believes in evil:

I think the answer is yes. Because when I’m writing fiction for a novel, I wake up at 4 o’clock every day and I go down to the darkness of my mind. Everybody has a basement, beneath ground. I go and find something. And describe that something. That is my job. You have to come back. Some people cannot go back. It’s very dangerous.


On his marriage:

44 years. It’s ancient history.


On being asked whether he writes frequently about love that is lost, missed and rarely ends in happiness because marriage is boring:

My married life has never been boring. That’s all.


On why he loves cats so much:

I’m an only child. I had an old female cat. She was my only friend in my house. So still now, I love old female big cats.


“Your house is burning down and you only have time to grab your cat and your wife…”

Cat first.


“…And 5 [jazz] records”

I own 11,000 records in my house. I cannot choose. Basically I’m an all or nothing guy. My house is burning – let it burn. The records are material things. I can buy them again, so maybe I’ll let it burn.


On whether or not cats have spirituality:

No. It’s just a cat.


On his favourite type of food:

Strangely enough, I love donuts. I’m a donut addict. When I’m living overseas I’m missing tofu. I love good tofu very much. Donuts and tofu. People are making tofu donuts in Japan. It’s good.