Writer Murakami says manuscripts sold without consent

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami has accused his late former editor of illegally selling off his handwritten manuscripts. Murakami says Akira Yasuhara sold the materials to antique bookshops and online.

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami says his late former editor illegally sold off his handwritten manuscripts through bookstores and over the internet.

Murakami made the accusation in an article written for the magazine Bungei Shunju, published Friday.

"My understanding is that original manuscripts basically belong to the writer," Murakami wrote in the monthly magazine about editor Akira Yasuhara. "It is clearly against basic professional morality and is the equivalent of selling stolen articles.”

The author said he wrote his works by hand with a fountain pen up until 1988, when he began using a word processor. He says he’s upset original copies of his work are being sold as “commodities.”

In the 16-page article, the 57-year-old writer chronicles his friendship and falling out with Yasuhara, whom he met in a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami is a bestselling novelist with a worldwide following. He won his first literary prize for his first novel Hear the Wind Sing (1979) and went on to world acclaim in 1987 with the semi-autobiographical Norwegian Wood. His most recent book, Kafka on the Shore, was listed one of the top 10 books of 2005 by The New York Times.

Yasuhara edited for a publishing house whose magazine Murakami contributed to. The editor died in 2003 and his family sold his collection of books, CDs and other documents to a bookstore in Tokyo. In doing so, they inadvertently sold more manuscripts that were in a plastic case.

Murakami alleges Yasuhara started selling off manuscripts prior to his death. At issue is a 73-page translation by Murakami of author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Ice Palace.  The translation was reportedly sold for 1 million yen ($9,747) by a second-hand bookstore in Tokyo in the summer of 2002.

Yasuhara’s publishing company, Chuo Koron Shinsha, says it has investigated Murakami’s complaints and said his manuscripts were originally stored in a warehouse but Yasuhara took several of them home without permission.

In a statement, the company apologized to the author for causing him “trouble” and said: “Some things remain unclear as people concerned have died.”

In the article, Murakami also disputes Yasuhara’s claims before he died that he helped mould the writer.

“I have no recollection of being nurtured by him. Rather, to use a perhaps impertinent phrase, I grew on my own," Murakami wrote.

The writer acknowledges Yasuhara was his friend but expresses frustration as to his friend’s actions.

“I don’t know why Yasuhara would do something like that.”