Today is World Book Day, a day meant to celebrate reading, and this week the third edition of the Japanese Film Festival Ginmaku will open in Zurich. Thinking of both dates, my first book choice of 2017 is Tony Takitani from personal favourite Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The English version of the short story was originally published in The New Yorker magazine. I am recommending today the relatively special, German hardcover edition (apologies to non-German readers). Here is why:
- Gratifying. All the trademark Murakami character traits are found in a concise form in Tony Takitani. A lonesome lead male character with a profession dealing in individual precision and concentration, much like the later variations of 1Q84 or Colorless Tsukuru. A uniquely attractive female lead character, with a penchant for fashion. A melancholic tale where music plays a role. One might frown at familiarity in Murakami’s work. I find there is always something to discover, a new subtle angle of humanity explored. Sometimes Murakami’s fictional work feels like a visual artist’s long struggle with a specific subject. I found Takitani to be a satisfying fan read or a good first introduction.
- Transient. Tony Takitani shows us in a few strokes how the only constant in human life is that nothing lasts forever. Family, relationships, feelings, all are in constant flux, at varying speeds. The more the lead holds on and tries to own and control, the more precarious nature asserts itself. Like a wind, that can be felt but not captured. In the end, even personal memories face the same fate. Takitani is everyman’s journey of self-awareness.
- Filmed. Tony Takitani is also the best movie adaptation of a Murakami work so far. From Japanese director Jun Ichikawa, the movie is extraordinary in its simplicity. The entire movie was shot in a small outdoor stage. The camera choices, with smart use of close-ups and out of focus backgrounds create a full illusion. The wind was an extra “actor”, involuntarily cast, but working perfectly as an echo of the story’s core idea. If Ichikawa had this map, the movie might have turned out different.
This edition of Tony Takitani uses movie stills as the design basis. Editions done with movie adaptations in mind often take the least effort approach of movie poster as book cover. The combination of story and selected images in a pared down volume works well.
If this suggestion inspired you to watch other Japanese movies, the http://ginmaku-festival.com is a good place to start in Zurich. Below a link to the German publisher’s page for the book and the IMDB page for the movie details:
Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami at Dumont
Tony Takitani by Jun Ichikawa at IMDB