Murakami, Olivetti, and the Typospigeon
Posted on July 27, 2015
Although it’s true to say you wouldn’t normally find Haruki Murakami in the company of a typewriter, I may have implied in a previous post that he never used one.
I’ve since discovered that Murakami not only owned a typewriter, but used one to kick-start his writing career.
In an essay published earlier this year in the Japanese literary magazine Monkey volume 5 entitled “Working on being a Novelist”, Murakami described how, at the age of 29, he was inspired to become a writer while watching a game of baseball between his local team, the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp.
According to an oft-repeated story, in the instant that first batter and American import Dave Hilton hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel.
It was an idea that fell from the sky like a baseball, or perhaps like the wounded racing pigeon he came across after submitting the manuscript of his first novel to a literary competition …
Wherefore art thou Typospigeon?
“I gathered the pigeon in my hands and carried it to the closest police station. I always call up that sensation whenever I think about what it means to write a novel.”
It took Murakami just six months to complete his first novel (Hear the Wind Sing). Despite winning the Gunzo Magazine’s Newcomer’s Award for 1979, he was unhappy with the end result.
Being more interested in 19th century Russian literature, and English paperbacks written in English, Murakami was unfamiliar with novels written in Japanese and was unsure of his writing style. He took to writing on an old Olivetti typewriter as a way of experimenting.
Although his English writing skills were not the best, it freed his mind, forcing him to keep his sentence structures simple and compact. Translating back into Japanese, he discovered the rhythm that became his writing style.
Unfortunately, I am not able to confirm the identity of Murakami’s Olivetti typewriter and have instead had to resort to despicable photo-shop trickery.
For an English version of the Monkey magazine article, check out this online article from The Telegraph.