…you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
– Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)
I only found out this morning, but January 12th is Haruki Murakami’s birthday! Yay, happy birthday! Thanks @withersforkreads on Instagram for bringing this to my attention!
Ever since I started reading his books last year he has quickly become one of my favorite authors ever and I’ve devoured his books in record time. I have read all of his translated novels so far and I’m planning on moving on to his short story collections next! So, in honor of his birthday, I’ll start this post with my favorite Murakami picks thus far, added my ratings and some very short blurbs (that doesn’t do the books any justice at all). In no particular order:
This trilogy is Murakami’s biggest work yet and is set in 1984 Tokyo and it’s parallel world Tokyo of the year 1Q84 (1-Question mark-84). In the latter world, the only clear indication that something is different are the two moons in the sky. The story involves the unlikely love story between assassin Aomame and math teacher Tengo, as well as the private investigator and the religious cult pursuing them. Then the question is, whether or not there’s a way to get back to the original reality of 1984 alive.
“Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”
Exploring themes such as consciousness and identity, this novel takes place in two worlds with parallel narratives. One world, the reality, happens in Tokyo’s underground world, where the narrator works as a human encryption system using his subconscious to process data. The other world, the End of the World, is a world within the narrator’s subconscious described as an isolated Town where the narrator works as a Dreamreader.
“Kafka on the Shore”
A novel about time, memory, love, and fate told through the parallel and eventually converging narratives of fifteen-year old cursed Kafka Tamura, a boy running away from home who finds new acquaintances in a private library in Takamatsu, and elderly Mr. Nakata, a man though mentally challenged has the ability to communicate with cats.
A story about unrequited love involving K and K’s best friend Sumire, who falls in love with Miu, a woman seventeen years her senior. Miu offers Sumire to work with her, and before long they decide to go on vacation to a small Greek island. It doesn’t take long before Miu calls K asking for help, as Sumire has mysteriously vanished.
A short novel that follows the events of one night in real-time, from early night until dawn. Young Mari sits in an almost-empty diner reading her book when she is approached by a handful strangers seeking her help. Meanwhile, Mari’s sister Eri lies is a deep and heavy sleep that has lasted for two months.
“A Wild Sheep Chase”
A wild and strange tale concerning the hunt for a mythical sheep, involving a nameless protagonist, a girl with ears so beautiful they increase sexual pleasure, a right-wing mafia-like faction, a sheep-obsessed professor, and a manic-depressive in a sheep outfit.
Every now and then I get asked what it is about Murakami’s books that I find so great, and I feel that’s a question that’s both easy and difficult to answer. Easy because I just want to say “well, it’s Murakami” like it’s obvious, and difficult because I want to write an essay where I actually don’t know the words that would do justice to how I feel. But, of course, I’ll give it a go. I knew about Murakami before bookstagram actually; I’d read some quotes from his books here and there on different social media, and while I found these eye-catching and strangely relevant, I often found that the poster had rarely read the books the quotes were taken from. So I never really had a proper source, until bookstagram came along and rekindled my interest. I first wanted to try his books because they sounded wonderfully weird and strange – and I gotta admit that I totally live for strange tales. I absolutely love weird books that you can’t quite get a grasp on but that grabs you and pulls you in all the same. For me, Murakami’s stories does exactly this. However, the more I read his work, the more I realized it’s not just his use of magical realism and surrealism that I find brilliant. I love the recurring themes (cats, cooking, music, whiskey, wells, etc.) and the different ways they’re included in each book, I love how his writing is so simple and straight-forward yet so beautiful and vivid, and I love all the open endings and all the unanswered questions you’re often left with. I even love the fact that I don’t necessarily love his characters but want to keep reading about them all the same.
This is an author that definitely isn’t for everyone, and I think that’s great. I have given people recommendations before and completely missed. What I find brilliant, others might find tiresome or frustrating, and I think it’s absolutely great that we love different books. Often it is Murakami’s writing in itself that is praised, but I find that he doesn’t write to please anyone. And here’s something to think about: maybe you don’t have to personally gain something from all the books you read, maybe they don’t have to make 100% sense for you to like them, and maybe all loose ends don’t have to be tied up neatly in the end.
For me, however, I feel like there are some dots in my head and in my heart that are connected almost every time I read Murakami’s work. And while there are many other books by other great and talented authors that I’ve genuinely loved and enjoyed, I can’t often say that I’ve experienced that exact feeling.
Here’s to more Murakami books in the future (and hopefully a Nobel, finally)!