Murakami: a window on the human experience

Immerse yourself in reading Haruki Murakami and how to overlook the window ofhuman experience: the complexity of emotional experiences, the most archaic needs and the deepest anxieties.

“We are not here to correct our alterations but to learn to live with them. Just as each of us has a particular way of walking, we also have a particular way of feeling, thinking and seeing things. Even if one wants to correct it, he cannot easily do it, and if he can do it by forcing himself, some other part of him begins to malfunction. " Norwegian Wood, Tokyo Blues (1987)

Haruki Murakami, translated in addition 50 languages, is undoubtedly the most acclaimed and loved Japanese author in the world. His artistic training as his novels are strongly influenced by the historical context in which his poetics has been forming. American pop influences, lost generation in literature, jazz and blues in music make him the most western author in Japan. Although it is not the elements he mentions in the stories that make him Western, but his style. A simple and realistic style, which can appear tedious due to the abundance of details, the repetitiveness of words and gestures, but perhaps this is what makes it accessible. The characters are human and true, the dynamics and stories so close to the readers but not trivial. 

In fact, the literary current to which it refers is the magical realism: the appearance of a magical element in settings and stories that would otherwise be likely. It is a touch of magic, of mystery, of the imperceptible that appears in the natural flow of things.

The reading is smooth and the reader eats the pages greedily because, alongside the clarity of the exposition, one perceives the authenticity of the moods of the characters linked to themes of strong psychological importance such as mourning,abandonment, trauma , perdita, Together with sex, relations, dream dimension and the boundary between reality e fantasy.


In psychology the bereavement reaction it is the reaction to a loss, not to any loss whatsoever, but to a loss that upsets, upsets, disrupts our way of seeing the world. In the process of disinvestment, which follows a healthy reaction to loss, memories, expectations, desires and beliefs about the object of love are evoked, over-invested and then the detachment of the libido is finally accomplished. However, when this does not happen, the loss takes the form of a traumatic laceration that is accompanied by depressive experiences and feelings of guilt.

Many of the Murakamian protagonists are faced with the perdita. In Norwegian Wood (1987) the protagonist, Watanabe, little more than a teenager must first face the loss of his suicidal friend, then that of the latter's girl he fell in love with. The anguish of being abandoned is present in the story Dance dance dance (1995), in which the protagonist, a freelance journalist, is left first by his wife and then by his childhood friend due to his emotional restlessness, causing a chronic sense of emptiness. A similar fate is that of Toru than in the text The bird that turned the vines of the world (1995) first undergoes the disappearance of the cat and then the mysterious disappearance of his wife whom he will try to find in a parallel universe.


In Murakami's works the relationships and in particular the couple relationships, they are often overwhelming, passionate and with a certain share of unrest, suffering and regret. 

“Despite the distance my love does not change. To stay away from you for a long time, however, I get a thousand fears. Human beings become fragile by being alone. … It was goodbye. We were both aware of it. I felt terribly… terribly empty. A hollow entity. "  The blind willows and the sleeping woman (2006)

In love affairs the individual is constantly engaged in a dialectic that includes theengagement , separation: the first is the unconscious proposal of relationship, the second is the maintenance of a clear individuation (Norsa and Zavattini, 1998).

Relational patterns are established starting from an unconscious interlocking with the aim of forming a lasting, adaptive and conflict-free relationship. However the fantasy of a symbiotic relationship in which the two lovers are immersed in an undifferentiated us that makes them inseparable and invincible is a fantasy that people pay for at the cost of their individuality and growth. According to Laplanche & Pontalis, identification is a process through which the subject assimilates an aspect, a property, an attribute of another person and transforms himself, totally or partially, on the latter's model; resulting in a change in personality. This type of fusional relationship prevents individuals from recognizing each other as a separate entity and the moment they leave the experience it is heartbreaking as if the other leaving takes part of their identity, leaving them as a "hollow entity".

However, in Murakami's texts the loss is not always in the connotation of the traumatic experience of mourning or abandonment. The fil rouge is the disturbance, the loss which can open up to new spaces of pensiero and new evolutionary possibilities.  

This is the case with stories like South of the border, west of the sun (1992) in which the protagonist abandons the loved one in search of himself, a research that often takes place in a parallel and surreal dimension. Taking up the story of Toru ne The bird that turned the vines of the world, the separation from his wife is accompanied by an initial bewilderment, which however then turns into a thought engine that highlights a new self-awareness. Abandonment is disarming due to the sense of helplessness: the initial reaction of feeling victimized at the mercy of the other is understandable. Nonetheless, individuals emotionally mature they can face separation by putting themselves in a position to see the active role played in relationships, understanding the dysfunctional dynamics generated and evaluating if a new form of investment is possible, or if separation is a solution to find a new balance.


In Murakami's texts, separations and losses are also intertwined with important evolutionary phases. In the aforementioned Norwegian Wood the theme of symbolic loss, represented by the end of adolescence and the entry into the world of adults. L'adolescence it is a phase of the life cycle that is often critical and stormy due to its physical and psychic changes. The often cruel impact with reality is a recurring element in Murakami's narrative. Critical moment for the evolutionary power, the traumatic episodes that occur in this phase contribute to the definition of the personality of the protagonists, who then find themselves facing the adult condition, sometimes with a share of isolation and withdrawal. Loneliness is expressed both as a distance and withdrawal from social relationships, but also as a refuge in the interior dimension and exploration of oneself.

The other element with which the characters experience adolescence, growth and self-exploration is sex. The sex, an inevitable aspect in Murakami's texts, is described as chaotic, compelling, embarrassing, curious and experimental. The text is always very detailed and tells of a sex that is sometimes difficult and complicated, other times and more often beautiful. Due to the detailed description of the sex scenes, some have defined her approach to carnal relationships as morbid.


In Murakami's stories the boundary between reality and fantasy is very blurred, passing from surrealism to science fiction. The protagonists discover themselves in parallel worlds, experience trance episodes, meet characters from other dimensions, catapulting the reader into a dream dimension. Nevertheless, the key to reading is not in a paranormal vision but an invitation to explore the dream world as a space in which to immerse oneself in order to get in touch with oneself, accept and rediscover oneself. 

“By dawn the typhoon had already moved away. The wind had stopped and the sun bathed the earth in clear, warm light. I went to check the entrance. I found a cigarette butt. Even the wooden sword. But no mirror. It never existed. There had never been a mirror on the wall next to the shoe cabinet. That's right. What I mean is that I didn't see a ghost that time. What I saw… was just me. But even today I can't forget the terror I felt that night. And I was convinced of one thing: there is nothing in the world that the human being should fear more than himself. " The blind willows and the sleeping woman (2006)


“In any circumstance, beating an opponent is the least of my worries. What interests me rather is whether or not I can achieve the goals that I have set myself. " The art of running (2006)

This passage is taken from the book The art of running, Murakami's autobiographical novel. Writing and running are the two great passions of the author who spends his days dividing himself between these activities. Both refer to fundamental values ​​such as self-discipline, the recognition of one's limits and the achievement of one's goals, which are authentically felt. The book is not a technical elaborate on running, but tells of how this daily activity has a saving value for the author, helping him to free himself from the burdens of the soul that writing in solitude often brings out. Running described as emotional therapy can be an analogy to a psychotherapy path. In fact, both require tenacity, commitment and discipline; one requires training of the muscles and the other that of the emotions. The two paths expose to frustration, to the sense of personal limitation but also stimulate the pursue their own well-being, rediscover their resources and enhance their potential.

Because in life we ​​are immersed in fatigue, soaked in limits and constraints and then therapy like running become a tenacious and courageous act, made up of perseverance and discipline: a choice to get to know yourself better. 

"Fatigue is an inevitable reality, while the possibility of making it or not is at the sole discretion of each individual." The Art of Running (2006)

 Giulia Laura


NORSA D., ZAVATTINI C. (1998). "Intimacy and collusion" - Raffaello Cortina Editore

FREUD S., (1915). "Mourning and melancholy", in Works, vol. VIII, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin.

* Notes on the author. Giulia Lauri is a Psychologist, Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and PhD in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences. He worked at the Sleep Psychophysiology Laboratory of the Psychology Department of the La Sapienza University of Rome, collaborating in the realization of sleep studies both in basic research and in the clinic. He carries out psychological-clinical consultancy and psychotherapy in Rome. It deals with the planning, management and implementation of the educational programming of the "Terra del Vento" educational farm. She has participated as a speaker in national congresses and is the author of articles and scientific publications. It has collaborated with PsyPlus within the intervention project to support people affected by the earthquake in central Italy and is included in the school psychology services area.


psychology, Murakami, extensive experience, narrative

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