Haruki Murakami wins this year’s ‘Premi Internacional Catalunya’

The Japanese writer wins the 23rd edition of Catalonia’s top award. Other winners have included Jimmy Carter, Aung San Suu Kyi, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Harold Bloom, among others.

CNA / Maria Fernández Noguera

March 19, 2011 12:08 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami has won this year’s prestigious international prize, the ‘Premi Internacional Catalunya’. It is awarded annually by the Catalan Government to individuals who have contributed decisively with their work to develop cultural, scientific and human values around the world. Last year, former US President Jimmy Carter received the award. Other winners have been: the leader of Myanmar’s opposition Aung San Suu Kyi, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, American writer Harold Bloom, French oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau, British philosopher Karl Popper, Indian economist Amartya Sen, former Czech Republic President and writer Václav Havel, or former European Commission President Jacques Delors, among others. Murakami was awarded by the jury because “his work transcends its cultural environment and he has become a reference for the literary world”. The author of ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘Kafka on the Shore’ and ‘After Dark’ has an individual universe, which switches between dreams and reality. According to the prize’s jury, “he has built a literary bridge between East and West”. The Premi Internacional Catalunya includes a prize of  80,000 euros and a sculpture from Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies.

Haruki Murakami is one of the most popular writers in the world. He became popular with ‘Norwegian Wood’ (translated into several languages such as Catalan and Spanish as ‘Tokyo Blues’), in 1987. He was born in Kyoto in 1949 and studied Literature at university. Early in his career, he combined his own work with translations, as well as with one of his passions, jazz music. He even managed a jazz club in Kyoto for some time. Music is in fact very present in his books, as it is reflected by the titles of some of them: ‘Norwegian Wood’ from The Beatles; ‘Dance Dance Dance’ from The Dells and ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ from a Nat King Cole song. His work has been labelled by some critics, especially in Japan, as “pop literature”. He combines real life with a dream universe, in a very personal style, where humour, nostalgia and music have an important role. Murakami has lived in the United States, where he was a lecturer at Princeton University. He has translated Raymond Carver, John Irving and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among other authors. His most recent successes have been: ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’, ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’, ‘Kafka on the Shore’, ‘After Dark’, and ‘1Q84’. Many of his books have been translated into Catalan, as well many other languages.

Murakami hopes the award will give strength to Japan during these difficult times

The writer sent an email yesterday to the Catalan Government thanking them for the award. He said that he believes that the prize “may act as a special way of supporting” the Japanese people, affected by last week’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear accident. Murakami said he is “very honoured” to be awarded with the ‘Premi Internacional Catalunya’ but that he is very sorry that he "cannot feel completely happy with this award because my fellow citizens are going through the most difficult time, suffering the savage earthquake and its effects”. The Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, said in a press conference that the decision was taken some days before Japan’s earthquake. This event however makes Murakami’s values “even more valid than ever before”, according to Homs. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, will present Murakami with the award, which is a sculpture from Antoni Tàpies entitled ‘La clau i la lletra’ (‘The key and the letter’) and comes with a prize of 80,000 euros. The ceremony will take place at the seat of the Government, the Generalitat Palace, on Thursday  June 9th 2011.

Murakami was chosen out of 196 candidates from 56 different countries. The candidatures were presented by 225 institutions from 54 different countries along with the same jury. They were presented in the second half of 2010. From January, the jury examined the different candidatures. After having a short list of finalists, they voted by an absolute majority to give this year’s award to the Japanese author. Launched in 1989, Murakami will be awarded the 23rd ‘Premi Internacional Catalunya’. The jury’s Chairperson is the Catalan President and the jury’s delegate chairperson is the philosopher Xavier Rupert de Ventós. Other members are art historian and diplomat Wijdan al-Hashemi, architect Ricard Bofill, art critic Juan Manuel Bonet, writer Josep Maria Castellet, politician Jacques Delors, soprano Barbara Hendricks, philosopher Edgar Morin, sociologist Richard Sennett, biologist Anna Veiga, and physicist Jorge Wagensberg.