The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Posted: April 10, 2009 in Book review, Philosophy

I started reading this book before my recent visit to Japan, where I visited Shinjuku, Ginza and other area of Tokyo, which enabled me to get a much better picture of  the novel’s location. The plot is simple: Toru Okada has given up his job to consider what he wants to do in life and goes in search of his missing cat, which is called Noboru Wataya after his brother-in law. This leads him into encounters with eccentric characters in bizarre situations and dissolving realities. During the course of the novel, Okado’s wife, Kumiko, also disappears and his goal becomes getting her back. The cat eventually returns and is re-named ‘Mackerel’ but Noboru Wataya, the man, becomes the focus of the disparate narratives; somehow to blame for his sister going ‘bad’ and the ”defilement’ of other characters. There is also a story told by a Lieutenant Mamiya who who was involved in the wars between Japan and Russia, and China and WWII. Through him the reader is introduced to another ‘evil’ character, ‘Boris the Russia’. He does have another name but that would be giving away something of the story for those who have not read it. What happens is a mixture of surrealism and the occult and there is a fatalism about individual destinies.

The characters have memorable idiosyncrasies: Malta Kano with her red vinyl hat; Creta Carno with her Sixties hair and make-up, the impeccably well dressed Nutmeg and her mute son Cinnamon, who like Toru Okado, does the domestic chores. Nutmeg and Cinnamon are enigmatic but there is a sense in which they appear to be good, helping their clients to overcome the badness in themselves. Murakami is interested in questions about existence and moral philosophy. Okado’s story is linked to that of Lieutenant Mamiya by a well; both characters spend some time down a well. Okado’s well is in the garden of the so-called Hanging House, which is empty because of its history. Another character, seventeen year old May Kasahara lives across the alleyway from the hanging house. She ultimately finds the answer to life’s problems by appreciating small things.

This is my second Murakami novel: the first was ‘Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World’; written as two parallel narratives which eventually meet. I can see the development from wells, passages and labyrinths to the more  science fiction/fantasy world over the later novel.

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Comments
  1. […] NaPoWriMo #11 This is a found poem adapted from Norwegian Wood by the Japanese author, Huraki Murakami. I’ve done some cutting and made a few changes in punctuation but essentially all I have done is to impose line breaks. This is very Murakami with its mention of wells, other worlds and surreal happenings. To write a found poem is Read Write Poem’s thrift store prompt posted by Christine. I have just finished reading Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. […]

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