What’s the value of writing so far from home? Why have you written so may books overseas?
It’s easier for you to write about your own country when you’re far away. From a distance, you can look at your own country as it really is. I wrote “Norwegian Wood” when I was on several Greek islands, and in Rome and Palermo, Italy. “Dance, Dance, Dance” was mostly written in Rome, and partly in London. The first half of “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” was written in Princeton and the latter half in Cambridge. And I wrote “After The Quake” in the middle of Tokyo, in an isolated little house owned by my publisher. I guess I have a nomadic spirit inside me that I can’t keep down. Because I now that each one of those books is connected to each of the places where they were written. When I think of them, the scenes of the locations where I wrote them come to mind.
So, you’re not only traveling physically, you’re actually journeying metaphysically into the self, into the imagination. You told me once that the trip into the imagination is fraught with dangers – like falling into a well, a metaphor you use a lot in your novels and stories. What are those dangers?
In almost all cases, the objective of a trip is paradoxical. You ultimately want to return to the starting point safely. Writing fiction is the same; no matter how far you go, or how deep a place you go to, in the end when you finish writing, you have to return to the place where you started. That is the final destination. However, the starting point to which you return is never the starting point where you actually started. The scenery is the same, and the faces are the same, and things placed there are the same. However, something fundamental has changed significantly. That’s what we discover; it’s your discovery. To know that difference is also one of your prime objectives – or at least to acknowledge that difference.
Does that mean that travel and making art are connected by the trip?
Yes, in that sense, traveling and writing fiction may be a similar experience. You first start by visiting near by places, convenient places, places everyone knows about, and then gradually, you start traveling to more distant, deeper and darker places – even more dangerous places. Just like a surfer goes farther away from the shore to find bigger waves. That’s probably in the very nature of the traveler and the fiction writer.