TOKYO More than 100 people lined up at midnight at a Tokyo bookstore, eager to get their hands on the latest Haruki Murakami novel that went on sale on Friday, the first in three years by the global bestselling author and Nobel prize favorite.
The publisher is printing 600,000 copies of "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" to assuage the appetite of fans kept in the dark about the book's subject and storyline.
Murakami, who regularly tops bookmakers' lists as a favorite for the Nobel Literature Prize, confessed that much of the book had been a surprise even to himself.
"One day I just felt like it, and I sat at my desk and started to write the first few lines of this story," he said in quotations printed on the cover of the book.
"Then for about half a year, I continued to write this story without knowing anything like what would happen, what type of people would appear and how long the story would be."
Unlike the massive, three-volume love story "1Q84" that preceded it, the new 370-page book is about loss and survival, centering on a lonely 36-year-old man named Tsukuru Tazaki who loves train stations.
Fans waiting at a bookstore in central Tokyo, who cheered at the stroke of midnight when stacks of the book were revealed, passed time by speculating about the novel and what Murakami might have been thinking as he wrote it.
"After '1Q84' came out, we went through a huge earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. I think Murakami must have been impacted by that event and wrote what he felt," said Daiki Oka, a 20-year-old college student.
"We are going to stay up to read the book together and discuss it," added his friend, Ayumi Ishihara, 19.
The book was already ranking as a top-seller on websites in Japan, including the Japanese Amazon.com. Publisher Bungeishunju decided on a reprint of 100,000 copies on Friday, just hours after the book went on sale, raising the total to 600,000 copies.
"1Q84" was a best-seller in Japan when it was published between 2009 and 2010 and was subsequently translated into at least 35 languages. A spokesman for Bungeishunju said he did not yet know specific translation plans for the new book.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota, editing by Elaine Lies)
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