Saturday, 25 December 2010

羊をめぐる冒険 -- 村上 春樹

This is my fifth Murakami novel. For English speakers, this is Murakami's first novel. He has written 2 novels prior to this, but apparently finds them “weak”, and those books cost a hefty price if you want them.

A strange right-wing political figure sends the protagonist on a task to find a sheep. The main character has a girlfriend with ears that have special sexual powers. It's no surprise that years later Murakami won the Franza Kafka award. When people discuss Murakami they'll struggle not to mention how surreal some of his work is. After reading a fair amount of Murakami, I can tell you they're not all this crazy.

A Wild Sheep Chase, despite sounding like a fairy tale, contains philosophical undertones yet has my respect for remaining accessible, interspersing his writing with comical, humane moments. It's interesting how an author can write so imaginatively, yet still put forward profound thoughts on modern life and people. I think that in the realm of Murakami, once you venture into a few chapters of his work, you'll realise how much depth his world holds. Despite our common perceptions of everyday life, inside all of us are worlds full of insanity. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes distraught, sometimes unbearable. I feel that I relate to Murakami's average-man protagonist (which are likely based on himself). The unnamed main character in Sheep Chase is summoned away from his mundane existence via bizarre exposure to this world inside the book and finds his real identity, just by glimpsing underneath the surface of our consumerist culture. Perhaps there is a metaphysical adventure inside all of us, or solely in our dreams. Murakami not only gives us as readers enough introspective leverage to really think about our lives and the society we live in, but enough to challenge it.

The anonymous man in our book has an intriguing relationship with 'the girl with the ears', which is beautifully portrayed, without fighting the clichéd constraints of 'modern romance'. As I progressed through the novel, I found the book losing all convention, and morphing into the completely surreal; diving head-first into an allegorical nature. After I'd finish it, the presence of the characters and Murakami's attack on contemporary alienation stick with me even now, a day later... even months later.

This is his first accessible book, packed with a terrific ending that I found myself reading the last 50 pages without any breaks. When I finished it, I sat there trying to make sense of it all, warranting the book numerous re-reads. It definitely does make sense, but only internally. I was moved with a completely unique sense of loss, something that actually made me happy. Whilst Murakami has written a book like this, it shows he still has the power to invoke human emotions and highlight the issues of our lives and emotions without being completely depressing.

I found myself absorbed in the prosaic setting, slowly transferred into this bizarre universe that's only just outside my doorstep.

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