A mesmerising, surreal novel - Murakami's most celebrated and influential masterpiece
Haruki Murakami is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His books include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and the most recent of his many international honours are the Jerusalem Prize and Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.
After his wife disappears, unemployed 30-year-old paralegal Toru Okada gets embroiled in a surreal, sprawling drama‘part detective story, part history lesson, part metaphysical speculation, part satire‘that marks Japanese novelist Murakami's (Dance Dance Dance) most ambitious work to date. As Okada searches for his wife (in an abandoned lot near his home, and in a city park), he encounters characters who are dream-like projections of his own muted fears and desires‘among them, a precocious, death-obsessed, 16-year-old neighbor and Okada's brother-in-law, a sinister politician. Peculiar events and strange coincidences abound. A mysterious woman calls Okada regularly, insisting on phone sex. A mystical experience at the bottom of a dry well leaves him with a blue stain on his cheek. Although Okada seems to be sleepwalking through his adventures, new acquaintances feel compelled to share their life stories with him and offer wild tales of violence and passion, tales that contrast strongly with the numbness that settles like a DeLillo-esque cloud over the novel's events (one character, witness to gruesome wartime torture, speaks of having "burned up the very core of my life"). As Okada discovers, these disparate characters are linked by the memory of the 1939 massacre of Japanese troops by Soviet tanks at Nomonhan on the Manchurian border, and this massacre comes to symbolize the senseless violence and political evils, past and present, that haunt Japan in the second half of the 20th century. Ingeniously, Murakami links history to a detective story that uses a mannered realism and metaphysical speculation to catapult the narrator into the surreal place where mysteries are solved and evil is confronted. (Oct.)
"It's a bizarre trip and I like it for the exact opposite reason that I like Belsky's book. That book is entirely practical in terms of life work strategies and this book is like a David Lynch film in a book." -- Pam Fujimoto * Drum * "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is a breath of originality. Murakami is known for his unusual blend of the mundane and the fantastical, and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle epitomises this style. This book is my favourite because it really resonated with me, the way it links together seemingly unrelated ideas into a meaningful story is incredibly unique." -- Senan Tuohy-Hamill * University Observer * "Deeply philosophical and teasingly perplexing, it is impossible to put down" * Daily Telegraph * "Visionary...a bold and generous book" * New York Times * "Murakami weaves textured layers of reality into a shot-silk garment of deceptive beauty" * Independent on Sunday *
Kumiko Okada has a satisfying career and comes from a wealthy family. Toru, her husband, is a lawyer. Little mars this young Tokyo couple's life other than the disappearance of their cat. From that minor event, however, their life together devolves into a confusing web of intrigue. Kumiko disappears, telling Toru not to look for her. Then a collection of mystics, clairvoyants, and healers enter Toru's life. Reeling, he begins to spend hours in meditation at the bottom of a dry well, becoming a healer of sorts, until his work brings him into conflict with Kumiko's powerful brother-in-law‘a conflict cast in moral terms, with Kumiko's soul in the balance. This very long journey is much less magical than simply strained. There are detours into the history of Japan's occupation of Manchuria and accounts of Japanese prisoners' lives in Siberian coal mines. Though interesting in parts, taken as a whole, this latest from Murakami (Dance, Dance, Dance, LJ 1/94) labors diligently toward some larger message but fails in the attempt.‘Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.