MADRID – Bestselling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has won this year’s Princess of Asturias Award for literature, the Spanish foundation that organizes the prizes said Wednesday.
The Princess of Asturias Award jury praised the “uniqueness” of the 72-year-old Kyoto-born writer’s essays, short stories and novels, which have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold millions of copies.
The panel highlighted Murakami’s “ability to reconcile Japanese tradition and the legacy of Western culture in an ambitious and innovative narrative."
It said his work expressed some of the great themes and conflicts of our time, including "loneliness, existential uncertainty, dehumanization in big cities and terrorism."
The panel lauded his ability to appeal to different generations through different genres, describing him as “one of contemporary literature’s major long-distance runners.”
Murakami has written several dozen books and has also translated works by authors such as Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, J. D. Salinger and John Irving.
One of his first major successes was with “Norwegian Wood” in 1987, which sold more than 10 million copies and was translated in some 35 languages.
Other major novels include “Kafka on the Shore,” “1Q84” and “After Dark.”
His collections of short stories “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” won the prestigious Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2006 and his short story, “Drive My Car” inspired Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi´s Oscar-winning film of the same name.
The Asturias prize jury said Murakami was an “unsettling” novelist influenced by Dostoyevsky, Dickens and Vargas Llosa and whose use of humor and surrealism did not prevent him from dealing with serious social problems and the defense of human values.
Murakami was chosen from among 37 candidates of varying nationalities. Previous winners include Ireland`s John Banville and U.S. writer Richard Ford.
The 50,000-euro award ($52,600) is one of eight prizes covering the arts, communication, science, and other areas that are handed out annually by the foundation.
The prizes are among the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world. The awards ceremony takes place each October in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo.