A fateful literary meeting: Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami

The two writers met in person only once, but it provided a lifetime of inspiration; most recently shown in Murakami’s new collection “Men Without Women.”

Haruki Murakami met Northwest short-story writer Raymond Carver for the first and only time in the summer of 1984. Murakami was 35 and had been writing for six years; his first great novel, “A Wild Sheep Chase,” came out in 1982 but none of his work had been published in English. He was known to Carver only as the enthusiastic translator who had been bringing his stories out in Japan at an impressive clip.

Carver was curious enough to interrupt his writing schedule for a social visit — something he generally avoided — and he was flattered that Murakami had come all the way from Japan to Port Angeles to meet him.

“Ray was eager, almost childlike with delight, to meet Murakami, to see who he was and why Ray’s writing had brought them together on the planet,” Tess Gallagher, Carver’s widow, wrote after the meeting.

Carver didn’t know it, but Murakami was on a pilgrimage. When Murakami read Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” in 1982, he was hit by a thunderbolt. To Murakami, this was genius, “an entirely new kind of fiction,” realistic but penetrating and profound in a way that he believed “goes beyond simple realism.” Murakami read another Carver story, “Where I’m Calling From,” in The New Yorker, and began collecting and translating everything of Carver’s he could find.

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Murakami is self-taught, a jazz-club owner who started writing fiction after an epiphany at a baseball game. He sticks to his own path and follows it without hesitation. In Carver’s fiction, he found a map to guide him.

“Raymond Carver was without question the most valuable teacher I ever had and also the greatest literary comrade,” Murakami wrote in “A Literary Comrade,” an essay…

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