Norwegian Wood (1987) by Haruki Murakami is my third foray into Murakami’s writing. This was a little different as there was almost no magic and barely any cats.
“Thinking of what I had lost in the course of my life: times gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again”
The book starts eighteen years in the future – or at the present and then goes 18 years into the past, whatever you prefer. To the summer of ’69 .. just kidding, to Autumn 1969. What kills me is that the story doesn’t ever circle back to where the narrator starts. We don’t even believe that he makes it back to 1987. We’re just left with a long gap of darkness and the ending is open. It trails off into nothingness, which I guess is the one true Murakami trait in this book – other than the fetishisation of women. Seriously, that man can only see women as sexual props that forgive and spur on the male character who comes off as a hero with amazing sexual prowess. Bro.
“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene, I hardly paid it any mind. I ever stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that eighteen years later I would recall it in such detail”.
People on bookstagram alerted me to Murakami’s sexism in previous discussions so I might have been a bit more sensitive to it while reading this novel. I was very aware of things like a letter written by a teenage girl to a teenage boy saying girls only care about what’s beautiful or what makes them happy and that the concept of ‘fair’ doesn’t occur to them, that “fair is a man’s word”… ummmm tf? no.
“It was the age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications”
The way the female characters are sexual doesn’t feel liberating but rather the sexualised fantasies of a guy who thinks he’s not misogynist and thinks hes such a ‘swell’ guy. Sort of a forced image of the modern female woman by men who “support” women but really they’re just as objectified as if they didn’t have a say at all. Which girl asks her male friend to think of her while he masturbates because she went to an all-girls’ school and is just curious. A girl who then shares with him sexual fantasies of which he has the starring role. She’s just dying to try giving a bloke a blowjob.
“I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them”.
It has the same element of music we’ve come to expect in Murakami’s writing (the title itself is from a Beatle’s song I believe) and I did enjoy his writing in spite of my feminist rant. I’m just going to leave you, as I am apt to do, with a list of my favourite quotes below.
- “It’s like I’m split in two and playing tag with myself. One half is chasing the other around this big, fat post. The other me has the right words, but this me can’t catch her”.
- “It’s basically impossible for everybody’s justice to prevail or everybody’s happiness to triumph, so chaos takes over”
- “People leave strange little memories of themselves behind when they die”
- “I miss you something awful sometimes, but in general I go on living with all the energy I can muster”
- “I’ve chosen to live – and to live the best I know how… and I have to pay the price to go on living”
- “In the deepening spring of May, I had no choice but to recognise the trembling of my heart”
- “Bent and twisted as that love might be, I did love her”
- “What I feel for Midori is a wholly different emotion. It stands and walks on its own, living and breathing and throbbing and shaking me to the roots of my being”