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Book Review: Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami

Sputnik Sweetheart has some surprising similarities to the The Wind-up Bird Chronicle: even the metaphors are the same. Or are they symbols? Or signs?

When Sumire goes missing, K’s first thought is that she’s fallen into a well. You see the well in your mind, piercing the surface of the earth, connected to the core of an unknowing, intangible world that you don’t understand.

Is that the promise of Murakami’s novels? His characters with their telepathic yearning and entangled dreams feel analogous to the squirming I do in my own life. Perhaps it’s something which can’t be said simply, or can only be seen indirectly, like how you look at a dim star. It’s not even always clear to me that the star in fact exists. It might all be hype, or astrodust, or something.

I have been thinking about what exactly it is that Murakami does well. I am making a checklist of the things I need to learn to begin to understand.

  • I’ll need to learn more philosophy–or more precisely, I’ll need to learn some philosophy.
  • I’ll need to learn more Japanese: this translation never felt quite right. Sure it’s hard to translate, and surely even harder from the non-orthogonal weirdness that is Japanese. Sputnik Sweetheart is a short novel, breezy and only affecting because it holds enough within itself to avoid becoming maudlin. It would be good to read it in Japanese.

I can say only this about Murakami’s novels for sure: when I read them, I have thoughts that I otherwise don’t. I am troubled by things which normally seem entirely ordinary.

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