Saturday, July 16, 2011

Japanese Literature Challenge 5 Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

This book revolves around losses - some self-imposed ones and some beyond human control. One of the first losses of the book was a self-imposed one that drove me a little crazy, up until the final page: the main character, Toru Okada, quit his job. I understand that without this decision, barely any of the book's action would have taken place, but at some points, when his imagination is taking him to brutal and dangerous places, I simply wanted to scream at him to get out of the house and get a job already.

The next loss was definitely one beyond his control, and was the one which I found the most fascinating: that of his wife's cat, who mysteriously disappears. This, as an animal lover, was what initially drew me to the book. Once this conflict was resolved, however, the lines between fantasy and reality became ever more blurred, so much so that I could barely keep track of which was which. Toru's experiences are definitely a testament to the power of the human imagination, but this power, Haruki Murakami seems to be warning us, doesn't always take us to the places that we would like it to. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but wonder at some points: Would this be happening to Mr. Okada if he just went out and got a job?

I'm not saying that a boring job is necessarily a good idea. However, something has always irked me about characters (and real-life people, too) that lack any kind of ambition. For this reason, I found myself rooting for secondary characters - such as the witty, sarcastic May Kasahara - instead. If Mr. Okada's life were in the hands of someone less skilled than Murakami, I would have only gotten frustrated and thoroughly confused. However, because this was a Murakami novel, I can say, despite my own personal biases, that is one of the strangest yet most beautiful books that I have ever read.


  1. I love this book-I really liked the sections set in Manchuria-it shows that Murakami can right wonderfully in a realistic mode also-I enjoyed your post a lot

  2. I'm very irked by people (in books and real life) who lack ambition as well. Wasn't our 'hero' passive?! It was almost as though he was living in a dream world of his own choosing...anyway, I agree with you that it's one of the strangest yet most beautiful books I've read, too, and no other but Haruki Murakami could make it so successful. (That said, I still like Kafka on the Shore the best. ;)

  3. I loved this book because of the way Murakami places these characters with their passive qualities and then sends them on these strange journeys.