Haruki Murakami unveils his new short story at a Tokyo literary event

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TOKYO — Only 1,100 lucky audience members were there to hear the yet-to-be published short story “Kaho,” read aloud by bestselling Japanese author Haruki Murakami himself.

The reading took place at a Friday night book event called “The Owl Reads in Spring” — a fundraiser for the Waseda International House of Literature library at Murakami’s alma mater in Tokyo, also featuring award-winning author Mieko Kawakami.

“It’s freshly made, only about 10 days ago,” Murakami told the audience, adding that he wrote it for the event. The last Murakami short released was “First Person Singular,” more than three years ago. His prolific literary work also includes essays, non-fiction and translation.

Murakami, relaxed and casually dressed in sneakers, jeans and a dark jacket, said writing a story for recitation was not easy.

“It’s actually quite hard to write a new story for reciting,” Murakami said. “Its content and style have to fit recitation, and it has to be relatively short.” The story still came out too long, he said, and read it in two parts during the event at Waseda University.

Journalists at the event were allowed to report story names, but not their content.

Now 75 and one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed novelists, Murakami debuted with “Hear the Wind Sing” in 1979, four years after he began writing while running a jazz bar in Tokyo. His 1987 romantic novel “Norwegian Wood” was his first bestseller, establishing him as a young literary star. His latest bestselling full-length novel, “The City and its Uncertain Walls,” was released in 2023 in Japan and is awaiting an English release.

The Owl event is a second for him and Kawakami, who said she is a longtime Murakami fan from years before she became a novelist. The two took turns reading aloud at a 2019 event where Murakami unveiled an earlier short story, “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey,” later published as part of the short story collection “First Person Singular.”

Kawakami, now an acclaimed author known for her bestseller “Breasts and Eggs,” translated to English in 2020, recited her new short story titled “Watashitachi no Doa (Our Doors)” at Friday’s event.

She debuted as poet and her first novella, “My Ego, My Teeth and the World,” in 2007, and her novel “Heaven” was shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize.

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