Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle And other Murakami novels

Considering that I have stolen my blog title from one of Murakami’s books, I guess it is only fair that I have a post on him. Besides which, he an author I really like, so it makes sense that way too!

Till last year I had never heard of a writer called Haruki Murakami. Murakami is not really well known in India, and I had no clue that this is a writer with so many novels behind him. I just wandered into a large bookstore and suddenly noticed a book called Norwegian Wood on one of the shelves. I am not a major Beatles fan, so the name meant nothing to me. I picked it up simply because of its spare rather minimalist cover design, which I found attractive. For the next three days, I had to actually attend a company meet in Singapore, and I found myself just waiting to get out of those dreary conference and organised-fun events and back to my room where I could get back into Norwegian Wood.

One good book leads on to another and since then I have read a number of Murakamis including After the Quake, Sputnik Sweetheart, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and just got my copy of his newest work, Kafka on the shore. What attracts me to his novels?

To me, Murakami is all about fantasy that meets reality – even if it doesn’t inside the novel, the possibilities of a meeting exist. Murakami is often cited more for his use of fantastic incidents, dream-like events and characters wandering in the rootless alienation of modern urban life. The fantasy is no mere entertainment though; it always leads to something deeper. In the Wind-up Bird Chronicles, the wind-up bird is ofcourse a figment of the narrator’s imagination, but it is a damn powerful figment, then. The idea of a bird that winds the spring of the world, your world and mine, is superb, simply because this everyday world of events and happenings and regular everyday people whom we meet is taken for granted by all of us. It is only when the wind-up bird stops singing, when the known world changes that we realise the absence of its song.

Similarly, in Sputnik Sweetheart, Miu is torn apart by a seemingly supernatural incident where she is left behind in the locked box of a giant wheel unable to escape. From this prison, she has a clear view of her own apartment where she sees a vile man making love to her. This fantastic and horrifying experience leaves her torn in two, unable forever to enter the sphere of normal human experience with intimacy. The fantasy throws up to us disturbing questions of what identity is, and infact, what normalcy is.

Beyond the fantasy, Murakami’s characters are the modern day equivalents of the ancient heroics; Their heroism is in their very ordinariness; In the competitive urban context, they are often the losers; the ones who have the dead-end jobs, the ones whose wives leave them, the ones who love the women who will never love them back the same way. They are so ordinary that sometimes it is only the “things” which happen to them that are extraordinary in any way. Kind of like most people, I guess.

10 comments:

Ankur said...

The only Murakami book I've read - "Hard-boiled wonderland and theEnd of the World" - is still vivid in my memory. Lent to be me by my friend Morten (who seems to have an uncanny knack of being able to tell what I will enjoy reading), I read it in a breathless continuum on a train-ride from Texas to California in december last year.

He is incredibly inventive - thank you for reminding me about his works, I will probably buy some of his books online sometime soon.

apusworld said...

Yes, Ankur, he is truly one of my favorites. If you like his style, why dont you try another writer, Margaret Atwood too? Ofcourse her booker for the Blind Assassin threw her even more into the limelight a few years ago, but one of her earlier political fantasy novels, 'The Handmaids Tale' is definitely worth a read. Maybe I will post on that shortly!

Ankur said...

I am actually reading "the blind assassin" right now. It has easily one of the most chilling first-line in literature. The plain drabness of that sentence describing the death of a person - that drabness is what makes it dramatic. Ironic, yes?

apu said...

I dont have that book on my shelves, and its a long time since I read it, so I dont recall the first line..but yes, a lot of the book has this chilling quality to it, which infact stays with you for days once you finish the book. Ditto for her other novel, (Semi-factual) based on a prisoner, Alias Grace.

Anonymous said...

don't know much abt blogging but the way i am going for it i guess this would turn out my blog instead of urs... so i will leave it at that... i guess when one has deadlines looming one will near about write about everything else that what really needs ot be written...
theguy

apu said...

anon the guy, dont worry, feel free to comment provided you do have something to say :-)The ones I hate are the spammers who say nice site, and then here is my bingo-lottery site etc etc blech

Anonymous said...

hey apu,
whole lot to say and not enough time... don't worry, no bingo site... all i could lead you to is my book collection (about 5000 strong) or to my dvd collection (about 750 of them) and my photography... well we'll leave it at that.. :)

Anonymous said...

and the first thing i'd better do is find myself an identity...

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