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The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami


Recently I finished reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It was the first full Murakami novel which I have read and I found it remarkably strange.

Murakami’s writing style is difficult to describe but, according to reviews of his books or interviews of him I have read*, his books seem to typically feature multi dimensions of reality as is the case in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

The story begins innocuously enough with our protagonist Toru Okada, a 30 year-old man somewhat adrift in the world after having lost his job, starting a search for his lost cat. The search for the cat, a beloved pet he shares with his increasingly estranged wife Kumiko, leads our man Okada to search deeper within and without himself for philosophical understanding as he encounters a set of characters each one odder than the last.

He meets Malta Kano, a stylish red-hatted flow expert, whose services have been requisitioned by Kumiko ostensibly to find the cat but using her awareness of flow and mysticism she takes him into an odd state.

Things get stranger still when he encounters Malta Kano’s sister Creta, a former prostitute who has been violated by Okada’s narcisistic whizz kid economist turned politician brother in-law Noburu Wataya.

Toru Okada’s life gets more and more curious after he begins to have vivid sexually explicit dreams involving Creta Kano – dreams she becomes aware of and which form an odd mystic connection between the two. Throughout the whole novel, which flits between different point of view narratives of odd characters, Toru Okada, in almost schizophrenic fashion, moves between wakeful sleep and sleepy wakefulness (if you are feeling lost right now, don’t worry I was too). Okada’s dreams become so sublime as to create this other reality which inevitably collide with his own known reality.

The novel is confusing and confronting at times [such as a flash back to Kumiko’s abortion] but my overall impression was strange. At this juncture, I typically offer some sort of recommendation or a rejection but I don’t know if I can.

Some of the stories told by rather tangential characters were unnecessary digressions but at other times Murakami really allows the reader to reflect more deeply on the psychology and/or mysticism underneath our modern suburban banality.

This struck me as a very strange book. Read it if you like strange.

*Here is an interview of Murakami by the guardian about his latest book


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