Puzzles Have Remained Puzzles  

Tuft's professor shares personal Haruki Murakami anecdotes during guest lecture.


 

The thirty students in Advanced English IV: Haruki Murakami were treated to a guest lecture by someone who knows the iconic author personally. Tufts University's Director of Japanese Program and International Literary & Visual Studies Professor Hosea Hirata was a colleague and friend of Murakami while Murakami was a writer-in-residence at Princeton University in the 1990s.


In advance of Hirata’s visit, students read Murakami’s collection of short stories The Elephant Vanishes. Hirata lectured on Murakami’s work before sharing anecdotes about Murakami’s time at Princeton. While Murakami is a private person, Hirata got to know him personally and shared some fun facts with the class— such as Murakami does not like Chinese food, loves music, and has a strict daily routine. Hirata also shared a review of Murakami’s magical realism, postmodernism, and non-fiction titles, as well as the accuracy of translations from Japenese to English. He summarized the common themes of love, doppelgangers, and the underground in Murakami’s work. 

After the review of Murakami’s work and life, Hirata led a class discussion on the titular short story "The Elephant Vanishes.” Students discussed the story and wanted to know what happened to the elder elephant and zookeeper that went missing from their home. Like much of Murakami’s work, the explanation of the vanishing elephant is a mystery. “Many puzzles have remained puzzles,” said Hirata. 
 


Hirata teaches two classes on Murakami's work at Tufts and is frequently contacted by Japanese media outlets for interviews regarding Murakami and his work. Pomfret English Teacher David Ring connected with Hirata over the summer and invited him to the Hilltop as a guest lecturer in his two advanced courses. In his lecture, Hirata discussed the translation of the 1982 Noma Literary Newcomer's Prize-winning A Wild Sheep Chase, which the students will read next, and suggested the students read Underground — a series of interviews of those impacted by and involved in the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Before the start of the term, the students read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running as their summer reading assignment. The Murakami course is a new elective at Pomfret and was so popular that a second session was added to meet the demand. 

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