Fans eager for a new installment of Haruki Murakami's multi-volume novel 1Q84 bore cold, drizzling rain in Tokyo, with some even starting to queue outside bookstores before midnight to be the first to snap up the celebrated author's latest work Friday morning.
Local TV reports showed readers lined up outside bookstores in the Japanese capital. The reclusive author's publisher, Shinchosha, said 500,000 copies of the third volume were available on Friday.
The publisher has also decided to print a further 200,000 copies for release later this month, after noting the high level of advance orders.
'The number of Murakami's fans keeps snowballing. I cannot think of any writer who commands such popularity.' —Bookseller Toshiaki Uchida
"I have read all the Murakami novels. I'm addicted to him," Kiyoshi Takahashi, a 52-year-old financial company manager, told Agence France-Presse.
"I'm going to stay up all night to read this," Ayako Arai, a 29-year-old ad agency staffer, told Reuters as she purchased her copy of the 602-page hardcover book.
A complex and surreal narrative infused with contemporary and musical references like some of his past books, 1Q84 tells the story of a Japanese man and woman, former schoolmates now searching to reconnect.
Original volume was 1st novel in 5 years
The 61-year-old Murakami released the first two volumes of 1Q84, which can be read as the year 1984 in Japanese, in May 2009. It was his first new novel in five years.
Little was known about the story because the notoriously private author chose not to release any details of the book after discovering that leaks involving his bestselling 2002 novel Kafka on the Shore spoiled the reading experience for his fans.
Readers snapped up the first two volumes of 1Q84, which (combined) was Japan's top-selling book of 2009.
Shinchosha says it has published a combined 2.44 million copies of the novel's first two volumes so far. The works have been translated into Chinese and Korean, but there is no word on when an English translation will be available.
"Unlike other authors, the number of Murakami's fans keeps snowballing. I cannot think of any writer who commands such popularity," Toshiaki Uchida, an assistant manager at the Yaesu Uchida book centre, told The Associated Press as he restocked more copies of 1Q84 near the store entrance.
Murakami's body of work includes fiction - such as Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and the short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - as well as nonfiction (Underground, about the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995) and translations of classic American authors such as J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler and Truman Capote.
Murakami's work has been translated into 40 languages and he is considered one of the world's most widely read Japanese writers.