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This report is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

The Walk by Jeffrey Robinson Anthony Rudolf

I haven’t read any of Haruki Murakami’s twelve novels but I could not resist buying his memoir with its Carver-influenced title, What I Talk about when I Talk about Running. It is an attempt to understand the nature of his life, a major component of which is long distance running: ‘to maintain, and improve, my physical condition in order to keep on writing novels’. Thus, by definition, the time taken up by training and running marathons and triathlons is not wasted. A famous poet once said, alluding to another and less famous poet: ‘He would have written better poems if he had married a different woman.’ I replied that he might not have written any poems at all. Of Murakami, I think we can say without being accused of psychologising, that he is an obsessive-compulsive, an addictive personality. He runs and he writes novels in order to have no time to do anything else, least of all meet other people. But let me cross over to the slow track: ‘If you want to learn to be a poet you must first learn to walk’ (Pablo Neruda, quoted by Ken Smith in You Again). When walking, according to Rousseau, you move at the speed of thought.

The Walk by Jeffrey Robinson (Dalkey Archive Press, 2006) is a short intense meditation on walking and its presence in literature, especially since the Romantic movement. One chapter only should have been omitted, in which he walks around an exhibition of Degas ...


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