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Posts tagged haruki murakami

スプートニクの恋人 (Sputnik Sweetheart) by 村上春樹 (Haruki Murakami)

The Sputnik Sweetheart was the third Murakami book I have read and second in the original Japanese. I almost gave up on it in the early going as it seemed rather boring. Things got far more interesting soon thereafter so I’m glad I stuck with it.

Published in Japanese just three years before Kafka on the Shore, there are many similar themes and items touched upon in these two works. I really enjoyed some of the messages near the end of the book and found them to ring very true.

Being a work of fiction, I don’t want to give much away in my assessment. However, I will say that I’m glad to have read スプートニクの恋人, and the Japanese is not very difficult if you can read at least a few hundred kanji. Also, I now want to visit Greece.

神の子どもたちはみな踊る

神の子どもたちはみな踊る (“after the quake” is the title given to the English translation) was the second Haruki Murakami book I read and the first in Japanese. The Japanese title (“All of God’s Children Dance” in English) refers to one of the short stories in this collection. The English title to the compilation refers to the common thread in each of the stories, the Kobe earthquake.

The stories are completely different from each other. The earthquake barely surfaces in some. In others, the Kobe quake of 1995 is symbolic of a major change that happens to one or more of the characters.

Ironically, (and I didn’t pick the book for this purpose; I just grabbed a random Murakami book off the shelf of the library to read on our trip to Thailand; I didn’t even realize this was a collection of short stories until I was several pages into the second story, which I initially assumed was Chapter 2 of the first story) I began the short story called タイランド (Thailand) on the plane from Tokyo to Bangkok which was the same setting as that for the character in the story who was making the same journey. The story felt more real by experiencing Bangkok right along with Murakami’s character.

Murakami is surprisingly easy to understand in Japanese. If you can read 1,000 or more kanji then I would recommend skipping his translated works and going for the original instead. Even if you are at, say, 500+ kanji you should give Murakami a chance in Japanese.

Kafka on the Shore

kafka on the shore haruki murakami

We found a few books in our apartment when we arrived in Tokyo. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami was one of them. I really enjoyed the first half. The second half wasn’t nearly as interesting to me, but it was still good–especially in parts. If you are well read, you will notice some borrowings and inspiration from other authors. Murakami doesn’t hide that fact. Instead, he alludes to his lifted items by referencing those other authors, like Soseki Natsume, within the work itself. It all works out to a very clever book.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the things going on in the subplots, you should find this novel to be enjoyable. I’m currently reading one of Murakami’s other works now, 神の子どもたちはみな踊る (All God’s Children Can Dance), in Japanese. For some reason it is funner to read the work of a Waseda University grad right on the Waseda University campus.

Here is a quote from Kafka on the Shore:

“‘Are the Japanese God and the foreign God relatives, or maybe enemies?’

‘How Should I know?’

‘Listen — God only exists in people’s minds. Especially in Japan, God’s always been a flexible concept. Look at what happened after the war. Douglas MacArthur ordered the divine emperor to quit being God, and he did, making a speech saying that he was just an ordinary person. So after 1946 he wasn’t God anymore. That’s what Japanese gods are like—they can be tweaked and adjusted. Some American chomping on a cheap pipe gives the order and presto change-o—God’s no longer God. A very postmodern kind of thing. If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” (p. 375)

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