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Manuscripts illicitly auctioned

Haruki Murakami accused his former editor of unauthorized trade in manuscripts.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 15:22 IST

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami accused his former editor of illicitly selling his handwritten manuscripts, saying many texts were now being traded on Internet auction sites and at second-hand bookshops for exorbitant prices.

Writing in Bungeishunju literary magazine, released Friday, the writer said a handwritten translation into Japanese of The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald was put for sale at a bookshop for more than¥1 million (US$8,490;€7,100).

The texts were released without permission by an editor at Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc., a major Japanese publisher, Murakami said. The editor, who Murakami worked extensively with in the 1980s, died of cancer three years ago.

"In principle, ownership of handwritten documents lies with the author," said Murakami. "A large number of my manuscripts have been leaked and are now missing. These are stolen items of sorts, because they were taken without permission and sold for financial gain."

He said the illicitly traded documents were from the 1980's and earlier, when Murakami wrote with a fountain pen and paper. He switched to a computer to write Dance, Dance, Dance, released in 1988.

"As a writer, I felt it necessary to raise the alarm that a rampant, clandestine and unlawful trade in original manuscripts exists," Murakami said.

A former jazz bar manager, Murakami burst onto Japan's literary scene in 1987 with a hugely popular experiment with realism, Norwegian Wood.

Since then, the writer has won acclaim, as well as a huge literary following, both in Japan and abroad. His works have been translated into some 35 languages, according to the publisher, Vintage.

Kafka on the Shore, a fable of magical realism about a 15-year-old runaway, was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2005 by the New York Times.

Murakami has also penned works of non-fiction, including a reportage based on interviews with victims of the 1995 deadly nerve gas attack in Tokyo, and has translated works by Raymond Carver, Truman Capote, John Irving and J.D. Salinger.

Despite his pop icon status, the writer is known to be fiercely private, rarely making media appearances. He has spent long periods outside Japan on stints at U.S. universities Princeton, Tufts and Harvard.

"Original manuscripts are private information. Like personal letters, there are parts I don't want other people to see," Murakami wrote in the Bungeishunju.

Chuokoron-Shinsha said Friday it had conducted a probe and apologized to Murakami over the matter.