“Norwegian Wood” is the name of a song for the Beatles. I used to passionately listen to the Beatles when I was a teenager.
As for Haruki Murakami, I was introduced to his work back in 2010. I was in Paris. I bought 1Q84 three volumes. A dystopian novel that shook me.
All I want in the world is you. . . . I want the two of us to begin everything from the beginning.
I was recently told that “Norwegian Wood” is the best book from Murakami. So I read it. In a single sitting. The book starts as Toru (the main character) recalls the song and he goes back in retrospect to when he heard this song during college days. It was his lover’s favorite – Naoko.
I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it—to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more.
What this book is about
This is a novel by Murakami, he wrote back in the eighties. This fictive story talks about psychological complexity, sexuality, love, desire, isolation, and loss. It is the story of a young man – Toru – who stays at the dorm of his college. Other than his academic success, he was passionate about learning German and about getting to know others, including women. Not long after the death of his friend, he fell for Naoko who used to date him. He devoted himself to her while he was struggling with the loneliness of college.
Naoko was in constant suffering and decided to retreat into her world, faraway. As such, Toru continued to write to her periodically and see her as much as possible while he started to be drawn to another young woman.
It is fair to say that this is a poignant story demonstrating fierce independence and liberated sexuality. Above all, this is the story of a man’s first love.
This book was turned into a movie almost ten years ago. It is a pure visual delight. Watch the trailer here. Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life.
What I liked
There is a lot I liked about this elegiac novel. This book is a masterpiece in fiction.
This book embodies two feelings I believe are the harshest to endure namely when they come together: separation and loneliness.
The story is stunning. The characters’ complexity is addictive. The underlying messages are captivating.
This book made me think and triggered deep questions
What does the process of writing help with?
Can someone love more than one person?
Why does the author pick The Great Gatsby as the hero’s favorite book? Perhaps the fact that Jay Gatsby was obsessed with one woman and he was constantly pursuing ideals.
Who is a normal person? This was brought up when the author describes an asylum where people heal using alternative approaches. There is a common concern from all the characters about being normal.
I felt at times that this book is autobiographical; yet it is hard to know. It may be, in a way or another, every young man’s story.
Murakami uses prose at times throughout the novel. Love scenes are described with incandescent lyricism: “From shoulder to back to hips, I slid my hand again and again, driving the line and the softness of her body into my brain. After we had been in this gentle embrace for a while, Naoko touched her lips to my forehead and slipped out of bed. I could see her pale blue gown flash in the darkness like a fish”.
This book has made it to the list of my favorites for various reasons. One of them is the way Murakami describes the period of student unrest in the sixties in Japan. The author’s description for student activism and the cynicism of some of the characters is something I relate to in a completely different context…
This is a must-read.
This is a must-read. It is a sweeping attempt to explain not only poverty (1.29 billion people struggling to survive on less than USD 1.25 per day) but various forms of gut-wrenching world problems.
Sexy stories: know how to tell them but do not believe them. Every best seller is ephemeral. Realization is inwards.
My friend and frequent contributor Ken used to live in the Middle East where I got to meet him. He is not only passionate about this part of the world. He is also one among the few expats I know who embraces the Middle East and understands it.
You must have noticed the changes to the look and feel of my website. I hope you like it as much as I do.
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