Renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami's new full-length novel, his first in around six years, hit the shelves Thursday at bookstores around Japan, breathing new life into a "phantom novel" that has remained out of print for over 40 years.
Shinchosha Publishing Co. said it will print 300,000 first-edition copies of "The City and Its Uncertain Walls," with an e-book version released in parallel.
A similarly titled novella -- "The City, and Its Uncertain Walls" -- was released in a literary magazine in 1980. As it was labeled a failure by Murakami, it did not get novelized.
"I had published the story in a half-baked state (in a literary magazine), and regretted it very much. I always wanted to give it a proper form," the 74-year-old said in a recent interview.
The new book is a full-length novel broken into three parts. The first part, told in the first person, reworks the 1980 novella, with the narrator entering a city with high walls where his adolescent crush had told him her true self resides.
In the second part, the protagonist returns to the real world and becomes the director of a small town library in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, where he has a mysterious experience.
A narrative structure that toggles between one world and another is characteristic of Murakami's stories.
"Novels have the important task of passing through the wall separating consciousness and unconsciousness in order to discover oneself in a deeper place," Murakami said, adding that the title of his latest book alludes to "the question of whether the wall that separates one's self from another world is really solid."
While Murakami's novella is also considered the prototype for "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World," he said he "wanted to rewrite the story" in his latest novel in "a different form" from his 1985 masterpiece.
"When I was younger, I wanted to write action-packed stories, but now that I am older I feel more inclined to calmly depict the inner lives of people," said Murakami.
Murakami, who was born in Kyoto in 1949, debuted with a novel titled "Hear the Wind Sing" in 1979, which won him the Gunzo literature prize for up-and-coming writers.
A graduate of Waseda University, the prolific writer is known internationally for works including "Norwegian Wood," "1Q84," and "Kafka on the Shore," for which he won the World Fantasy Award in 2006. His last novel, "Killing Commendatore," was published in 2017.