Murakami in Manila?

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JAPANESE writer Haruki Murakami attends a reading in Odense, Denmark on Oct. 30, 2016. — AFP

IS Haruki Murakami finally coming to Manila?

Talk that Japan’s famed writer would be coming to the country started in 2016, right after acclaimed novelist and Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa — who has a Filipino-Spanish partner, Isabel Preysler — visited the Philippines. But the elusive Japanese writer has not yet set foot in the Philippines.

With the announcement of the Japan Foundation Manila’s six-day festival called “Haruki Murakami Festival,” the rumors flared again. Is the Tokyo-based writer known for books like Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Woods, and Men Without Women be the special guest at his own festival?

Unfortunately, the foundation says no.

Instead, the festival promises to “enjoy the world of Murakami with your senses,” through a series of experiences in music, films, and talks, which are all open to the public for free.

On Feb. 27, there will be a “Talk About” Murakami, a session of discussions among diehard fans called “Harukists” and first-time Murakami readers.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)’s English professor Alona Guevarra — who specializes in Murakami studies — will lead the talks. Among the topics are Murkami’s popularity and his global appeal.

The literary discussion will be held at Ateneo’s Leong Hall, followed by an overview and sneak preview of other elements of the festival, including a performance by award-winning pianist April Dawnena Merced-Misa, who will take part in the “Listen to” Murakami segment.

On March 17, some Palanca award-winning Filipino writers will talk about Murakami’s story, his writing style, and his social influence. On March 18, two Filipino writers and running enthusiasts will talk about Murakami’s work and his dedication to running, as inspired by his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

The March talks will be held at Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City.

two award-winning film adaptations of Murakami’s printed works, Norwegian Wood and Tony Takitani, will be screened at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Film Institute on March 15 and 16.

Directed by Tran Anh Hung, Norwegian Wood, published in 1987, is one of Murakami’s best-known international novels. The film portrays the inner anguish of a young man torn between two completely different women.

Also a tale of the heart, Tony Takitani, directed by Jun Ichikawa, is based on an elegant Murakami short story. Starring Issey Ogata and Rie Miyazawa, the movie tells the story of a lonely man who finally finds love.

Murakami isn’t only a marathoner, but a music lover. The author ran a small jazz bar for several years, and his love for music always finds spaces in his writings.

In honor of this aspect of the author, a music festival with some spoken word performances by David Ezra will be held on March 23 and 24 at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City.

All the events are free and open to the public. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman