This post originally appeared in Coffee-Stained Dreams.
Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル Nejimakitori Kuronikuru)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Magical realism
On the top of my Murakami Reading List this year is “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”. After 3 weeks of contemplating meanings, of being weirded out, and just marveling at my favorite author’s prose, I’m glad that I finally closed the book and finished it. Though this is not the first book that I finished reading this 2014, I am publishing my thoughts right away…because I know that if I put this off even for just a little while, I won’t be able to write anything about it anymore — and I can’t afford that. A Murakami ALWAYS deserves a space in this blog. Things were still a little messed up and jumbled in my mind right now, but I’ll try what I can to make a coherent post. Bear with me, please.
Japan’s most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.
Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.
Three books in one volume: The Thieving Magpie, Bird as Prophet, The Birdcatcher. This translation by Jay Rubin is in collaboration with the author. (via Goodreads)
Because of work and stuff, I really had a hard time squeezing this in my daily routine. I tried to find time, though: right after I woke up and just before I go to sleep. So you could only imagine: when I was reading Wind-Up, I was either half-awake, or half-asleep — and it worked. It truly worked. There were moments when I unconsciously drift off to sleep holding it in my hands, and somehow when I wake up I have these vague moments of recognition when I thought I dreamt about it: the mysterious scenes and all.
The imagery was so vivid and done in the most breathtaking way… that when I close my eyes, I can clearly see the scenes as if I’m witnessing them first hand. Murakami is a master of words…and I can’t even put into writing how much that means to me as a reader
Though I generally liked (even loved!) this book, I must admit that there were moments when the narrative fell flat. Well, not literally, but almost. There were moments when the narrative failed to get my attention, failed to make me feel things. Lietunent Mamiya’s (a notable character in the book) story lines were especially dragging, I must say. But these are pivotal to the book as a whole so the time spent would still be worth it. There were moments when it felt like the story is repeating, or going no where… but you can’t stop. You just can’t stop because you know that at some point or another, something would come up. At one point or another, it would all makes sense.
It all felt so disjointed and related all at the same time. The best moments of this book are those instances when you feel so lost then you suddenly encounter something that raises the possibility of a connection, however remote. Murakami was a genius, letting his readers think, bugging their minds all the time that they have no choice but to read on just to know if everything makes perfect sense or just some joke that someone plays over another. The last chapters were gripping. I was half-awake when I started reading them, and by the end of it, I am pretty caught up and so immersed in it that I can’t put it down even if I need to prep up and go somewhere.
I was really in awe at how Murakami was able to weave such intricate tangle of web, and make it into a masterful labyrinth where his readers could get lost in. It was such a bizarre, surreal experience — as most his books were. But out of all the books I’ve read from him, this in itself sets the benchmark for all Murakami books that I would encounter. This book proved that he’s a master of brilliant magical surrealism that would stretch the reader’s imagination because of its twists and turns.
“Well, finally, the events I’ve been through have been tremendously complicated. All kinds of characters have come on the scene, and strange things have happened one after another, to the point where, if I try to think about them in order, I lose track. Viewed at more of a distance, though, the thread running through them is perfectly clear.” ~ Toru Okada.
This quote perfectly sums up the whole book for me. Sure there were a lot of questions that was left in mind, even after I read the book. And I guess some (or most, if I must say) of it is, again, left for the readers to think for themselves. But it was an overall awesome read. It was a wee bit long, but it was so worth it. This took “Murakami weirdness” to a whole new level — executed with exquisite and perfect imagery and prose. It may take some time for me to wrap my mind around everything that transpired in this monster of a book before I could really manage to form a coherent opinion about it. (And there may be follow up posts, I’m sure of it.) But that’s the thing with a Murakami, right? It never leaves you.
“When you don’t have anything to do, your thoughts get really, really far out – so far out you can’t follow them all the way to the end.” ~ May Kasahara
“It is possible, finally, for one human being to achieve a perfect understanding of another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”
“Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiosity usually evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiosity’s like a fun friend you can’t really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own — with whatever guts you can muster.” ~ Toru Okada
“Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade.” ~ Lieutenant Mamiya
“Hatred is like a long, dark shadow. Not even the person it falls upon knows where it comes from, in most cases. It is like a two-edged sword. When you cut the other person, you cut yourself. The more violently you hack at the other person, the more violently you hack at yourself. It can often be fatal. But it is not easy to dispose of. Please be careful, Mr. Okada. It is very dangerous. Once it has taken root in your heart, hatred is the most difficult thing in the world to shake off.” ~ Creta Kano
“Spending plenty of time on something can be the most sophisticated form of revenge.” ~ Toru’s Uncle
“People change for all sorts of reasons…” ~ Kumiko Okada
This was the novel that made Murakami a recipient of a Yomuiri Literary Award which was (ironically) awarded to him by his former harshest critic, Kenzaburō Ōe. “Two chapters were originally published in The New Yorker under the titles “The Zoo Attack” on July 31, 1995, and “Another Way to Die” on January 20, 1997″ [via Wikipedia]. Also, there were two chapters and missing parts that were somehow lost when it was translated to English (which I am trying desperately to find now >.<). The only official English translation of Wind-Up was by Jay Rubin.