HONG KONG — The 2012 Nobel Prize in literature will soon be announced, and oddsmakers are listing the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami as the favorite.
According to the betting firm Ladbroke’s, Mr. Murakami, 63, is the frontrunner at 5-1 odds, followed by Bob Dylan at 10-1. The Chinese novelist Mo Yan is next at 12-1, tied with the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom.
In a recent commentary in The Asahi Shimbun, Mr. Murakami spoke out about the noxious effects of nationalism, which have been inflaming the dispute between China and Japan over the contested Senkaku islands. China calls the remote and rocky islets the Diaoyu; the other claimant, Taiwan, calls them the Tiaoyutai.
“When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions,’ it creates a dangerous situation with no exit,” Mr. Murakami said, according to a translation in The Japan Times.
“It is like cheap liquor: Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely. . . But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning. We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage.”
Put another way, by the possible Nobel laureate Mr. Dylan: “Keep a clean nose / Watch the plain clothes / You don’t need a weatherman / To know which way the wind blows.”
Mr. Murakami, noted for “Kafka on the Shore,” “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” has known a little something about too much liquor and rash behavior. From his Times Topics page:
In his early 20s, instead of joining the ranks of a large corporation, Murakami grew out his hair and his beard, married against his parents’ wishes, took out a loan and opened a jazz club in Tokyo called Peter Cat. He spent nearly 10 years absorbed in the day-to-day operations of the club: sweeping up, listening to music, making sandwiches and mixing drinks deep into the night.
In his Asahi Shimbun piece, Mr. Murakami said he was “shocked” to hear that his most recent book, “1Q84,” and works by other Japanese writers have been removed from Chinese stores — part of the collateral damage over the dispute about the islands’ sovereignty.
Mr. Murakami’s work has been widely translated and is popular throughout East Asia, especially in China and South Korea.
“One of the main purposes of cultural exchanges,” he said, “is to bring about an understanding that we are all human beings who share emotions and inspirations, even if we speak different languages.”
“That is, so to speak, the path through which souls can come and go beyond national borders. You soon sober up after the buzz of cheap liquor passes. But the path for souls to come and go must not be blocked.”
Mr. Murakami, Times Topics said, has “established himself as the unofficial laureate of Japan — arguably its chief imaginative ambassador, in any medium, to the world: the primary source, for many millions of readers, of the texture and shape of his native country.”
The critic Sam Anderson visited Mr. Murakami in Japan last year and wrote about their meeting for The New York Times Magazine, right around Nobel time. And the Times Topics entry said this about Mr. Murakami’s work routine:
For 30 years now, he has lived a monkishly regimented life, each facet of which has been precisely engineered to help him produce his work. He runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing.
“1Q84” was published last autumn to a mixed reception, including a review by Janet Maslin in The Times that called the 925-page novel “stupefying” and “quicksand.”
Two Japanese authors have won the Nobel for literature, Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 and Kenzaburo Oe in 1994. (The only Chinese writer to have won was Gao Xingjian, the author of “Soul Mountain.” He was born in China, in Jiangxi Province, but won the prize in 2000 as a French citizen, and the Chinese government did not acknowledge Mr. Gao as a Chinese writer.)
Mr. Oe and Mr. Murakami were part of a group of Japanese intellectuals who last week issued a call for Japan to reflect again on the postwar history of the region, saying “Japan, South Korea and China are important allies and partners in building regional peace and prosperity.” (Japan is also in a dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima islands, known in Korea as the Dokdo islands.)
The group, according to a report in the South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, “stressed Tokyo’s need to build on the Murayama Statement of 1995, acknowledging and apologizing for misdeeds during Japan’s colonial rule.”
The statement was made Aug. 15, 1995, by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The statement reads, in part:
Building from our deep remorse on this occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan must eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international coordination as a responsible member of the international community and, thereby, advance the principles of peace and democracy.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 1, 2012
An earlier version of this post misstated the title of Tomiichi Murayama. He was the prime minister in August 1995, not the foreign minister.