“What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami BOOK REVIEW

WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING

Year of publication: 2011 (first published in 2007).

Publisher: Tusquets

ISBN: 9788483835937

Strong Point: The reader gets to know how and why Murakami started his career as a writer as well as his philosophy in sports and life itself. 

Weak Point: If you are not interested at all in running or are not a fan of Murakami, this book is not for you.

Books on Tour Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4/5)

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.85/5)


WHAT IT SAYS IN THE BLURB:

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and–even more important–on his writing.

REVIEW OF “WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING”:

Murakami is pure poetry even when his books belong to the fantasy genre. But (and this was a surprise for me) he can also be pure poetry when he talks about running. Believe me, it is true.

I bought this book lots of years ago, in my mother tongue, Spanish. Then it stayed abandoned in my very crowded shelves. But, with the confinement we have been suffering, I decided it was time to read it. I mean, what is better than reading about running in the outside when you are not allowed to do it?

Anyway, I must say I am not a great fan of running. I had run in the past three or four times a week but always in a gym. And I did not really enjoy it. I “had” to do it in order to get fit. However, as with all things that we humans don’t enjoy, I abandoned the habit and I must say, quite happily.   

Nevertheless, I am a great fan of Murakami. I read his “1Q84” and I consider it one of the best books of the genre that I have ever read. For this reason only, I thought I could like “What I talk”. Fortunately, it was so.

MORE THAN JUST RUNNING

For the title of the book, Murakami was inspired by Raymond Carver’s “What we talk about when we talk about love”. However, this title is a little bit misleading. Murakami is not only telling us about his habit of running. He does, but it is a lot more than that. 

In the narration, he mixes parts where he talks about running with parts where he tells us bits of his life specially in relation to being a writer.

He explains how he decided to start his career as a story teller, about his beginnings and his relationship with the fame. In addition to this, Murakami explains to us how he practices physical exercise in order to be a better writer o to write for longer periods of time.

So to say, physical exercise makes his creative mind work better and longer. Moreover, he explains how exercise has “educated” and “formed” the person he is nowadays.

MURAKAMI’S PHILOSOPHY

He even takes the time to narrate in a whole chapter (number 4) how the majority of the methods he knows for writing novels, he has learned them running every morning. 

Furthermore, and this is very interesting to me, he confronts running the same way he confronts writing or in the end everything else in his life. His “philosophy” is also found in his running strategy. And vice versa, of course.

In addition, Murakami gives us little wisdom “pills” about life in general according to his own experiences, failures and successes. He acts like a good teacher trying to help his students (= his readers).

As a “side effect” of Murakami’s account of his running experience, we can also learn some characteristics of his personality. For example, he tells us about his relationship with solitude, or his pain endurance. As a fan of him, these insights into the writer are very much appreciated and enjoyed. 

And lastly, all of this information is told in a beautiful, lyric language. And yes, he is in the end just talking about running!! But if the language used is elegant and appealing, it increases the value of the narration. 

I must add, Murakami tells his story with a tasteful and subtle sense of humour, which I was not really expecting from him, I don’t know why. But these funny remarks make the reading experience even more enjoyable.

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT “WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING”

For all what I have said before, I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t like running and are lazy like me. Murakami is always worth a reading. And if you are one of his fans, this book is also in part his memoirs, which adds an extra of interest to the book.


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