Weren’t you reading this ages ago? Yep, technically, this is a throwback book and I should have done it on Thursday. It’s Saturday.
Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Animal By: Haruki Murakami Year: 1994
When did you read it? Summer 2014, took it with me on my trip to Hong Kong. I had ambitious intentions but ended up only being able to get through about 30 pages. Every day I was distracted by stuff like food and lifts up very tall buildings. Finished it when I got back.
Remember it being good or bad? Good,different. Very interesting but also a bit disorientating. A lot of it seemed like a string of dreams that barely made sense -which I later realised may have been Murakami’s intention.
What’s it about? The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is a novel about a disillusioned young man, Toru Okada, whose wife and cat (separately) vanish under questionable circumstances. He then spends a very very long time in a dazed state of denial, trying to sort his life out. He also spends an unreasonable amount of time hanging out in a dry well.
Along the way, Mr Okada encounters and befriends a series of curious, uniquely troubled people- the women being the most impactful for me. These are the kind of people I would likely stay at least a table length away from after five minutes of party small talk. Every single one of them make you pity Okada’s ability to judge character. Sometimes you even question whether they are real or just an extension of his conscience .Yes, it’s that type of book. I’ve heard this story described as philosophical, which I suppose it could be. It’s an account of one man’s surreal self-realisation, a coming of age many years too late. In any case, it’s definitely not a light read – probably why I couldn’t finish it on holiday. It’s not literally difficult to read though; I think the translation from Japanese to English has forced very straightforward prose
Murakami is generous with his words so the narrative seems a bit lengthy at times but the tale is an enjoyable challenge to read. It’s a welcome journey from any sort of reality. The writer is so generous that few of Okada’s new friends even get to tell their own stories in some of the short chapters. The chronicles are split into three with (thankfully) short, titled sections in each part so you don’t get lost between dilemmas.
The magic of this novel is in Murakami’s compelling ability to use vivid descriptions and emotions to lead you through perplexing discoveries with the protagonist- whether you want to go or not! It is as difficult for the reader as it is for Okada to tell where nonsensical dreams end and reality begins. Eventually, it becomes second nature to empathise with his confusion. Frustratingly so.
There’s also an unexpected amount of bizarre sex in here – not smut but not romance either. It seems to be one of the ways Okada proves to himself he is real. Just letting you know in case you look out for that sort of thing. Also, considering the title, the Wind Up Bird makes relatively few appearances. Just letting you know in case you picked up this book because you like birds.
Recommend it? Yep. Simultaneously disturbing and impressive. Looking forward to reading others by Murakami.
Would you read it again?: I wrote most of this review without doing my usual 30 min refresh skim through- the story does really stick with you. Probably too long to read again but I’d watch it if it someone makes it into a movie. It would be a weird movie.
Read it if you like: Apparently The Wind Up Bird has a heavy Kafka influence but I’ve never read any of his books. Any suggestions?
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Picture credit: Deviantart downloads