Haruki Murakami’s Leaked Library Record Sparks Privacy Debate

by Melissa Ragsdale

Last week, Japanese newspaper Kobe Shimbun published a photo of library borrowing records taken from the legendary author Haruki Murakami’s high school. The photos revealed that as a student Murakami had checked out books by French author Joseph Kessel. In response, the Japanese Library Association is up in arms, claiming in a report that revealing Murakami’s (or any person’s) records is an extreme violation of privacy.

But the editors at Kobe Shimbun stand by their choice, saying that because of his literary status, Murakami’s reading choices are of public interest. “Mr. Murakami is a person whose work and how he developed his literature is a subject for scholarly study,” commented Hideaki Ono, the paper’s assistant managing editor. “He is known to have profound knowledge of British and American literature. But [the cards] showed he also explored French literature in his younger days.”

The records themselves were found by a library volunteer, who discovered them in a stack of old books being discarded by Murakami’s alma mater. Murakami gave no consent to their publication, and as of now has made no comment on the matter.

Infused in this controversy is the idea of public ownership: Where do we draw the line between an author’s legacy and their humanity? In the digital age, with information increasingly accessible, it is an issue that bears incredible importance.

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