This post originally appeared in Coffee-Stained Dreams.
Title: Sputnik Sweetheart
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publication Date: April 9, 2002
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves. A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments-until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, “K” is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing. (via Goodreads)
Sputnik Sweetheart, to me, was a very emotional book. And since I’ve been an avid fan of gut-wrenching, butterfly-in-the-stomach-sending, and heart-throbbing books that put me in an emotional mess, naturally, I would be a fan of this one. I am a lover of books that explore the details of a hurting heart, and specifically describe the pain the characters were suffering from. Some would say that loving something with such intensity of negative emotions (hurt, pain, etc.) prove to be a little pessimistic/sadistic/sentimental or whatever, but I am a firm believer that it is when we experience these kinds of emotions that we bring out the rawness of our self – that part which let us feel more than ever. Books that convey these kinds of emotions tend to affect me more than the others and I love books that I feel very connected to. And this one? This book has all the connections I can muster.
This conveys the suffering of an unrequited love (loves, that is). The pain of being there – just there, for another. Knowing how much you love her/him while knowing full well that that love cannot be reciprocated, but still choosing to linger and support the other. Those were the times when this novel caught me. The way K, the male protagonist, conveyed his emotions in such simple yet meaningful words. I always read with my high lighters within reach, marking every passage I like (that’s the beauty when you own the book you’re reading, you’re free to do anything to it like highlighting, writing in it’s margins, underlining, etc.), and before I knew it, the book was yellow all over. I like Murakami’s way of writing: how he put the punctuation in all the right places, how he uses these strange descriptions to convey what he wanted to say, and even how he capitalizes some of his statements. It’s too perfect
(ooops, fangirl talking). This book is swelling with quotable quotes that depict the rawness of human emotions.
As to the characters, K is lined up to what I believe is the trademark Murakami protagonist: a music lover, and a book lover. He writes beautifully, and is able to describe what he’s feeling in an excruciating manner that sometimes, I find my tears building up. And then there was Sumire. First off, I LOVE HER NAME. Well, basically, Sumire means ‘violet’ in Japanese. She’s an aspiring writer, and obviously, she loves to read. She found this best friend figure with K, but then, without her knowing, K started to fall into her enigma. The problem is: Sumire, who is not really sure with her sexual orientation, seemed to fall deeply in love with a woman named Miu who had a very curious past and whose hair have turned all white for some weird reason that you would discover if you read the book. K was Sumire’s confidante, and so, he is torn with listening and understanding Sumire’s emotions for Miu even though he himself have one for her. Thus, making the whole unrequited love thing more unbearable for him.
Reading Murakami has given me three impressions: emotional, vintage, and surreal. With a set of curious, and almost strange characters…. Murakami made, what I think, one of his most emotionally vulnerable creations. And with the presence of vinyl records, bookstore, and jazzy cafes, one cannot really deny the almost too classic and dated setting of the book – which, I love by the way. But despite all of this, he still didn’t lose the surreal element about his writing, on which he is widely known. Murakami’s courage in taking on strange elements in his books, while taking the readers with him is one of the things I love about this man. The back story of Miu, and what really happened to Sumire when she disappeared still posed question in my mind. The books gave an account of what happened with the said story, but they’re not-so-satisfying as it made me still want further explanations. Somewhere behind those well spun words, is the question of whether they are just metaphorical representation of something — of a more real and tangible narrative. Weeks and months after I first finished reading it, the riddle of whether these words mean something more is still lurched in my brain. It left me thinking. Until now, I didn’t have an answer I’ll be satisfied with so I guess this book won’t leave me alone for a while.
I would go as far as say that Sputnik Sweetheart is so hauntingly good (to my preference). I love Murakami’s distinct element dancing in the thin border between reality and fantasy, and how he works out the premise of every single book he writes. Every ending of each chapter is gripping, that made it just a breeze to finish reading it. Though the ending was a little vague, this book still shoot straight to my ‘Favorites’ shelf.
“In dreams you don’t need to make any distinction between things. Not at all. Boundaries don’t exist. So in dreams there are hardly ever collisions. Even if there are, they don’t hurt. Reality is different. Reality bites.”
– Sumire, Document 1
Sputnik Sweetheart contains the story of “The Man-Eating Cats” that has been previously featured in “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” collection of short stories.