Japanese Librarians Furious Over Haruki Murakami Privacy Breach

Posted on December 3, 2015

The Japan Library Association is furious over a leak of the reading habits of Nobel Prize winning author Haruki Murakami. The newspaper Kobe Shimbun published a report listing books that Murakami checked out of the library when he was in high school. The Japan Library Association was not amused. The Japan Times reports that the Library Association blasted the newspaper for violating the author's right to privacy about what he reads.

The Association said in a statement, "Disclosing the records of what books were read by a user, without the individual’s consent, violates the person’s privacy." But the newspaper is unrepentant. Hideaki Ono, assistant managing editor of the Kobe Shimbun, told The Japan Times, “Mr. Murakami is a person whose work and how he developed his literature are a subject for scholarly study." Ono explained, "He [Murakami] is known to have profound knowledge of British and American literature. But [the leaked lending cards] showed he also explored French literature in his younger days. We believed these facts are of high public interest."

So how did the newspaper get a hold of Murakami's lending records? By accident, it appears. A volunteer at Kobe High School found three library books that had Haruki Murakami's name listed on the attached lending cards. The books were set aside to be deacquisitioned by the library. The volunteer contacted the newspaper and the newspaper ran with the story. The fallout has been epic, but the newspaper has refused to apologize for running the story.

The books Murakami checked out were by French author Joseph Kessel who wrote Belle De Jour in 1928. The novel is about a housewife who has a double life as a call girl. Catherine Deneuve played the housewife in the iconic film adaptation of the book. The breach has caused a huge uproar in Japan, where Murkami has near mythic status as an author. Although the fallout has been epic, the newspaper has refused to apologize for running the story.

As breaches of an author's privacy goes, it could certainly been worse. But the volunteer should never have leaked lending information to the newspaper. Haruki Murakami has not commented on the breach of his privacy, so we have no idea if he is upset over the incident. The school has formally apologized for the inappropriate actions of the volunteer. As for the Japanese librarians, we love how fiercely they safeguard their patrons' privacy.

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