TOKYO (AFP) — The first novel in five years by Japan's best known modern writer Haruki Murakami became a bestseller before it hit stores on Friday and despite the fact the author has kept its plot a mystery.
When Murakami's "1Q84," which can be read as "1984" in Japanese, finally went on sale, his legions of fanatical fans had already reserved tens of thousands of copies of the two-volume novel, booksellers said.
Online retailer Amazon.co.jp also said it had received advance orders for about 20,000 copies of either part one or two of the book, its biggest hit for a Japanese novelist.
Murakami, 60, a former Tokyo jazz bar owner who is often mentioned as a Nobel literature prize contender, has struck a global chord with his sensitive tales on the absurdity and loneliness of modern life.
His novels, which have drawn an international cult following and been translated into three dozen languages, include the titles "Norwegian Wood," "Kafka on the Shore" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle."
Murakami, who rarely gives media interviews, has kept a tight veil over the new novel and its plot, while his Japanese publisher has made little effort to promote the title.
"As far as I know, this is the first time that we have released a new novel without any pre-release marketing," said Akiko Saito, chief editor of the literature section of Shinchosha Publishing Co.
"We are seeing a market impact much bigger than expected."
The publisher had quickly increased its first print run amid the surging advance orders and was now planning to print an initial 300,000 copies of part one and 280,000 copies of part two, she said.
Saito said the secrecy surrounding its release was meant to please fans.
"After we published 'Kafka,' many readers told us they wished they had read the novel without any prior knowledge of what it was about," she said.
Kanae Miyazu, a Tokyo photographer and long-time Murakami fan, said she immediately bought both volumes on Friday.
"Even without knowing anything about the book, I decided to buy and read it anyway because I trust Mr. Murakami," she said. "Any book of his would be fun."
The publishers said they did not know when the novel would be published in English and other languages.