Sputnik Sweetheart Paperback – Feb 19 2003
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Haruki Murakami is arguably one of Japan's finest, modern writers and is, increasingly, being seen as one of the top authors working today. The last novel of his to find its way to these shores, Norwegian Wood, was a delightful, if slightly one-dimensional coming-of-age tale. The pyrotechnics of his previous, more surreal novels (Wind Up Bird Chronicle and A Wild Sheep Chase) had disappeared but something of his eccentricity, what made his books such a wonder, had disappeared too. Sputnik Sweetheart is a confident continuation of this more simple style yet one that retains the allegories, the depth of his best work.
The narrator, a teacher, is in love with the beguiling, odd Sumire. As his best friend, she is not adverse to phoning at three or four in the morning to ask a pointless question or share a strange thought. Sumire, though, is in love with a beautiful, older woman, Miu, who does not, can not, return her affections. Longing for Sumire, K (that is all we are told by way of a name) finds some comfort in a purely sexual relationship with the mother of one of his pupils. But the consolation is slight. K is unhappy. Miu and Sumire, now working together, take a business trip to a Greek Island. Something happens, he is not told what, and so K travels to Greece to see what help he can offer.
Themes of love, loss, sexuality, identity and selfhood are all interrogated, woven into a compelling, romantic, serious and sometimes sad book. It is a disarmingly simple, hugely satisfying, intelligent and moving work and one of Murakami's best. Simplicity, sprinkled with a dose of his magic, has enabled Murakami to write candidly, succinctly and beautifully about the complications and difficulties of love and loving. --Mark Thwaite
From Publishers Weekly
Murakami's seventh novel to be translated into English is a short, enigmatic chronicle of unrequited desire involving three acquaintances the narrator, a 24-year-old Tokyo schoolteacher; his friend Sumire, an erratic, dreamy writer who idolizes Jack Kerouac; and Miu, a beautiful married businesswoman with a secret in her past so harrowing it has turned her hair snowy white. When Sumire abandons her writing for life as an assistant to Miu and later disappears while the two are vacationing on a Greek island, the narrator/teacher travels across the world to help find her. Once on the island, he discovers Sumire has written two stories: one explaining the extent of her longing for Miu; the second revealing the secret from Miu's past that bleached her hair and prevents her from getting close to anyone. All of the characters suffer from bouts of existential despair, and in the end, back in Tokyo, having lost both of his potential saviors and deciding to end a loveless affair with a student's mother, the narrator laments his loneliness. Though the story is almost stark in its simplicity more like Murakami's romantic Norwegian Wood than his surreal Wind-Up Bird Chronicles the careful intimacy of the protagonists' conversation and their tightly controlled passion for each other make this slim book worthwhile. Like a Zen koan, Murakami's tale of the search for human connection asks only questions, offers no answers and must be meditated upon to provide meaning. (Apr. 30)Forecast: Long the secret delight of connoisseurs, Murakami has been steadily and quietly acquiring a wider readership. His latest offering breaks no new ground but is packaged in a striking manner and should attract a few newcomers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
But what made this book different was the real feelings of the characters. They were raw, vunerable and exposed. The three main characters made up a loose love triangle. They were each in love, concerned and anxious about it. Wondering if they should make a move. Confused about their identities and the meaning of life. Living with the thought "if only........"
This book stirred up a lot of thought in me. The discussion of themes like identity, happiness, and purpose in life was really moving. If this is your first Murakami book, you will love it. For those who are familiar with his work, you may have to simply ignore the fact that Murakami uses a character template to display his brilliant themes.
on how a lowbrow sci-fi-trophic type like me became a
Murakami addict and loved it. Basically, start with
Hard Boiled Wonderland and work backwards, then forwards.
By the time you get to this gem, you'll appreciate
the rock-garden clarity of a single supernatural
moment embedded in the best of assimilible
Americanisms - the hardboiled detective-by-default
(The Long Goodbye) who has almost succeeded in expunging
his own self, as he investigates the mysterious
unreachable waif-woman (Raise High the Roof Beam
Carpenters), and the more mysterious, more unreachable
wonder-woman who is her unintentional yet supremely
sophisticated lover (The Lyre of Orpheus).
Interesting ideas in this book include Murakami's brief exploration of the idea of being "attentive". When the main character/narrator had an affair with an older woman earlier in his life, he was "instructed" in how to go about being with a woman when the woman used the analogy of being a good driver versus an attentive driver. The woman insists that being a good driver does not matter as long as the driver is "attentive" and alert. The narrator began to see the connection to his sexual being... being alert and attentive to the things around him. "Not prejudging things, listening to what's going on, keeping your ears, heart and mind open."
Another interesting idea is the idea of your existence being split into two parts. One of the main characters, Miu, felt herself split in half one night... one side had all her sexual desire, her youth. The part the character in the book was left with was a woman with no sexual desire, who held everyone at arm's length and whose hair had turned white overnight. The narrator explores the idea of what is on "the other side"... can people cross over between these two existences?
Finally, Murakami writes, "So that's how we live our lives.Read more ›
The story is based upon a love triangle. The young man narrating the story has long been in love with Sumire. But Sumire views him as a friend and a confidante. She is not interested in a physical relationship with him or, apparently, with any man. When Sumire meets Miu, the two become friends and Sumire develops a strong physical attraction to Miu. The plot of this story develops and then disentangles this love triangle.
For me, the strongest part of the story was the portait of the narrator's love for Sumire, together with the attendant emotional and physical pain resulting to him from Sumire's lack of interest in a sexual relationship. The characters in this book, the primary characters as well as the secondary characters, are fragmented and lonely. Given that deep intimacy with another person generally involves a physical, sexual component and a component based upon friendship and interests, the characters in this book exhibit at most one or the other. They seem unable to combine both. They also don't know what they want and don't understand themselves very well.
In my opinion, a story such as Murakami's begs for a spiritual understanding.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Like all of Murakami's work, this novel was magical. I especially liked how he explored two characters of under represented sexual orientation in novels similar to this - lesbian... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Kelsi
Wow, what a struggle to get through this book. I will not be picking up another Murakami. I usually love surrealist fiction, magical realism etc. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Pete
Haruki Murakami's "Sputnik Sweetheart" (2001) is a novel with themes of rejection, frustration, and lack of self-knowledge. Read morePublished on April 16 2004 by Robin Friedman
Huruki Murakami is one of the best authors out today. If you haven't read anything by him then I suggest Norweigan Wood. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2004 by John I. Provan
A weird and wonderful tale told by a narrator we later find who is known only as "K". His friend Sumire, meets an older woman, falls in love with her, then vanishes from... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2003
I am still uncertain I grasped all the underlying meanings and intentions of Haruki Murakami in this poetic story but know that this was a unique read; one which requires time and... Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2003 by Tsila Sofer Elguez