With help from The Global Game editor, over the weekend I read an interview with Haruki Murakami in Germany’s Spiegel, about his running addiction and new memoir (not yet out in English) “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
If you aren’t aware, Murakami, the most popular living Japanese author, not only writes copiously but runs a marathon every year–there’s even a web site that tracks his marathon movements called Let’s Haruking on Foot, although it only goes up to 2005.
He runs to be mentally and physically fit, strong enough to dig into the dark places his stories inhabit, and most important to find his way up again.
Here’s an excerpt of this funny, intimate interview:
Murakami: Definitely. The stronger my muscles got, the clearer my mind became. I am convinced that artists who lead an unhealthy life burn out more quickly. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin were the heroes of my youth — all of them died young, even though they didn’t deserve to. Only geniuses like Mozart or Pushkin deserve an early death. Jimi Hendrix was good, but not so smart because he took drugs. Working artistically is unhealthy; an artist should lead a healthy life to make up for it. Finding a story is a dangerous thing for an author; running helps me to avert that danger.
SPIEGEL: Could you explain that?
Murakami: When a writer develops a story, he is confronted with a poison that is inside him. If you don’t have that poison, your story will be boring and uninspired. It’s like fugu: The flesh of the pufferfish is extremely tasty, but the roe, the liver, the heart can be lethally toxic. My stories are located in a dark, dangerous part of my consciousness, I feel the poison in my mind, but I can fend off a high dose of it because I have a strong body. When you are young, you are strong; so you can usually conquer the poison even without being in training. But beyond the age of 40 your strength wanes, you can no longer cope with the poison if you lead an unhealthy life.
There’s also a helpful page for Murakami-philes on Guardian UK web site, listing articles and updates on publications and events.