- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (Sept. 12 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375704027
- ISBN-13: 978-0375704024
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Norwegian Wood Paperback – Sep 12 2000
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In 1987, when Norwegian Wood was first published in Japan, it promptly sold more than 4 million copies and transformed Haruki Murakami into a pop-culture icon. The horrified author fled his native land for Europe and the United States, returning only in 1995, by which time the celebrity spotlight had found some fresher targets. And now he's finally authorized a translation for the English-speaking audience, turning to the estimable Jay Rubin, who did a fine job with his big-canvas production The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Readers of Murakami's later work will discover an affecting if atypical novel, and while the author himself has denied the book's autobiographical import--"If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than fifteen pages long"--it's hard not to read as at least a partial portrait of the artist as a young man.
Norwegian Wood is a simple coming-of-age tale, primarily set in 1969-70, when the author was attending university. The political upheavals and student strikes of the period form the novel's backdrop. But the focus here is the young Watanabe's love affairs, and the pain and pleasure and attendant losses of growing up. The collapse of a romance (and this is one among many!) leaves him in a metaphysical shambles:
I read Naoko's letter again and again, and each time I read it I would be filled with the same unbearable sadness I used to feel whenever Naoko stared into my eyes. I had no way to deal with it, no place I could take it to or hide it away. Like the wind passing over my body, it had neither shape nor weight, nor could I wrap myself in it.This account of a young man's sentimental education sometimes reads like a cross between Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women. It is less complex and perhaps ultimately less satisfying than Murakami's other, more allegorical work. Still, Norwegian Wood captures the huge expectation of youth--and of this particular time in history--for the future and for the place of love in it. It is also a work saturated with sadness, an emotion that can sometimes cripple a novel but which here merely underscores its youthful poignancy. --Mark Thwaite
From Publishers Weekly
In a complete stylistic departure from his mysterious and surreal novels (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; A Wild Sheep Chase) that show the influences of Salinger, Fitzgerald and Tom Robbins, Murakami tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story, reminiscent of J.R. Salamanca's classic 1964 novel, LilithAthe tale of a young man's involvement with a schizophrenic girl. A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy. Published in Japan in 1987, this novel proved a wild success there, selling four million copies. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Anyways, this book is awesome. I would recommend anyone to read it.
A. The story offers a very pungent insight into the pressure-cooker environment of modern Japanese society, with all its time-honored traditions and taboos. In the rush to succeed in an overly competitive society, many of the main characters like Toru and Naoka either self-destruct or withdraw because of their glaring inability to control the situation at hand as they climb the mystical ladder of success;
B. The story provides a titillating plot full of adventure, suspense,loathing and uncertainty, as the characters move in and out of various sexual relationships;
C. You, the reader, get to peer inside the minds of youth as they grapple with the big moral issues of the day;
D. The author captures the futility of life as bound up in the individual seeking to become established in a society that is always in transition with no time for reflection;
E. The title "Norwegian Wood" befits the storyline very effectively. Toru's frustrations at not being able to form a permanent relationship are captured in that classical line, "And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown."
Because the book hit a place in my soul, a mate to my soul, a heart to my heart.
The Beatles song Murakami's 1987 novel is named after is on surface listen a pretty two minute ditty. A pretty, but sad, thing. The tone of Murakami's novel has something similar gently pulling the reader through. It is also equally deceptive to the song in how simple it seems, how easy it reads. Yet, beneath a book that reads like almost pure autobiography, and a song that listens like effortless melody, lie layered artful structure, and things thematically heavier than meet the eye.
The Beatles' song that is so melodically sweet ends with a man taking revenge on a girl who would not sleep with him, by burning down the furniture in her room.
Murakami's narrator does no such thing. But his book too juxtaposes a gentle tone with themes of longing, of loss and of what can and will never be.
To be somewhat vague and very brief "Norwegian Wood," set in the Tokyo of the 1960s, is a love story. Basically it is a sad story. Most all the love in the book is of the unrequited variety, and there is more than one suicide. The book has much to lend itself to feeling blue, like Miles Davis on his muted trumpet. But for every lonely moment, you get a scene with a character like Reiko, a friend like Reiko, a woman who should be tragic considering her history but who, by the time we meet her in a sort of sanatorium for sad or screwed up people, turns out to be that rock solid salt of the earth type who seems like the mentally healthiest person on earth. Better still, though no longer the piano virtuoso she once was, she plays a mean guitar, Beatles song included.
The magic of Murakami's "Norwegian Wood," is that a book so focused on sad subject manner manages to have what all books need to be great - a sense of adventure. Not, of course, in the children's literature sense of the word, but in the 'you've gone off to another place' sense.
"... the bus plunged into a chilling cedar forest. The trees might have been old growth the way they towered over the road, blocking out the sun and covering everything in gloomy shadows. The breeze flowing into the bus's open windows turned suddenly cold, its dampness sharp against the skin. The valley road hugged the river bank, continuing so long through the trees it began to seem as if the whole world had been buried for ever in cedar forest - at which point the forest ended, and we came to an open basin surrounded by mountain peaks. Broad, green farmland spread out in all directions, and the river by the road looked bright and clear. A single thread of white smoke rose in the distance..."
Best of all is the poetry is in the book's balance, as alongside depression and suicide, you also get a character like Midori - one of my favourite in all modern literature.
"At 5:30 Midori said she had to go home and make dinner. I said I would take a bus back to my dorm, and saw her as far as the station.
'Know what I want to do now?' Midori asked me as she was leaving.
'I have absolutely no idea what you could be thinking,' I said.
'I want you and me to be captured by pirates. Then they strip us and press us together face to face all naked and wind these ropes around us.'
'Why would they do a thing like that?'
'Perverted pirates,' she said.
'You're the perverted one,' I said."
And really, what else do you need to help you cope with death, and the kind of love that will never be, but perverted pirates?
-Probably Because I Have To
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