Hashiru Koto Ni Tsuite Kataru Toki Ni Boku No Kataru Koto (2008)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Translated by Philip Gabriel
Haruki Murakami is one of Japan’s most celebrated novelists, and one whose novels I have yet to read, though I have After Dark, his 2004 novel in my ‘to-read’ pile. I was in a local bookstore, browsing, looking to buy something but uncertain what, and as I found a novel to read (also in that growing pile), I was offered this essay by Murakami for half-price. I said why not. I had five mile walk home, in glorious sunshine, along a peaceful and empty beach and up the Conwy Estuary homeward. I started to read Murakami’s essay. Half way along my walk I stopped and sat on the breakers, read some more, and started to walk again, still reading, along this coastal path. The odd runner passed me and I stepped aside, feeling their pain because Murakami was talking about the pain of running, but how it was a good pain, a needed pain. I got home later than I normally would have, having read almost the entirely of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I read the last chapter at home. I think the rhythm of my walking was the perfect backdrop to reading this work.
I knew nothing of Murakami’s life, or his work, when I started this, and it has proved not only an excellent introduction to the man and his life, but to his fiction. I am sure when I sit down to finally read his fiction I will be more attuned to his rhythms, fascinations and details than I otherwise would have been.
I’m no runner, though I do walk long distances quite frequently, but I found myself captivated by his descriptions of running. It made me consider running myself. That beach walk I was coming home along is a perfect running track. Doing that each day would do me wonders. But I prefer walking, I like taking my time, considering things as I go. Walking allows me to commune with nature, with myself, and with my own fiction. As novelists we have to go with what works.
Some people may wonder where this title has come from: it is an allusion to a collection of works by Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
I don’t have much to say about Murakami’s essay, other than it is excellent, and you don’t have to be interested in running to enjoy it. It is an insight into a man, his fascinations, his life, and speaks a few truths about writing that those interested in the craft will take something from. Most of all though, it has whetted my appetite for his novels.