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Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami

Themes abound in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but the work is mainly fueled by chance and destiny. Throughout the novel, scenarios present themselves to Okada, situations that shift the path of his tale. As characters enter his life, they pull him into their world -- literally. He becomes a tourist within shifting interior landscapes, and through multiple eyes, Okada's dreamlike search for identity in the midst of chaos is revealed. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle uses various narrative digressions to grow into a historical panorama, and Okada's presence becomes an integral link, connecting all characters and chronicles.

Just finished Wind Up Bird Chronicle

But look at the whole, and Wind-Up confirms the Norman Mailer principle: The birth of a great journalist is often paralleled by the death of a novelist. Murakami lets the narrative lines, so carefully laid, snap; you're suspended midair, your tender attentions scattered to the winds. You gulp, tell yourself you can transcend the Aristotelian unities, and would move on if Murakami allowed you to. But he does not. In what is either a belated acknowledgment of your investment--and his own--or, less likely, a more directly subversive move, he starts reeling in the lines about 100 pages from the end. The obvious is manfully recapped, the bows tied in tweet, tidy trills. "Cinnamon's grandfather, the nameless veterinarian, and I had a number of unusual things in common--a mark on the face, a baseball bat, the cry of the wind-up bird. And then there was the lieutenant who appeared in Cinnamon's story: he reminded me of Lieutenant Mamiya [the war veteran]." And shortly thereafter, "Everything was intertwined, with the complexity of a three-dimensional puzzle--a puzzle in which truth was not necessarily fact and fact not necessarily truth."

Reading Notes from Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle …

Reading Notes from Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle

But he clearly pays attention during the process of translation. Rubin said that the first time he translated a Murakami novel, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” he phoned the author several times one day to nail word choices and correct inconsistencies. “In one scene, a character had black-framed glasses. In another, the frames were brown. I asked him: Which one is it?” I found Rubin’s anecdote revealing. The Japanese language acquires much of its beauty and strength from indirectness—or what English-speakers call vagueness, obscurity, or implied meaning. Subjects are often left unmentioned in Japanese sentences, and onomatopoeia, with vernacular sounds suggesting meaning, is a virtue often difficult if not impossible to replicate in English.

Murakami has been called one the “world’s greatest living novelists” by The Guardian, a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who has read his work. Favorites include The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The appeal may lie in his peculiar magical realism, where anything can happen, where people believe strange things, where the most impossible illusions become ordinary facts of life. All the big questions from Shakespeare translate seamlessly into Murakami’s dimension -- what is real? who am I? is love worth dying for? what does it all mean? The themes that run through every single story he writes are about "what lies beneath." What is in the human heart? What mystery can be penetrated beneath the ordinary? What worlds lurk within worlds, like Matryoshka dolls? And what is really there, beyond the way things appear to be?

[One critic comments that in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle…

Favorites include The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, ..

And though it’s quite likely that if this were your project, your editor would hurl it back at you for its clunky overcrowding of symbols and signs, for half finished stories, abrupt departures, missing pieces, and missed connections. Under the exquisite craftsmanship of Haruki Murakami, however, the density manages to resonate as streamlined, supremely minimalist, and utterly believable. New York Magazine said it best: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is as “sculpted and impacable as a bird by Brancusi.”

“Murakami aims to provoke not just a frisson of unsettlement, but a deeper, more consequential unease,” said Newsday, waxing unusually poetic, about Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - The New York Times
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

About a month ago I picked up The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and decided to check when I had last read something by Murakami. I have no reviews of his books on this blog and nothing about him in the notebook I use to keep track of what I’ve read for the last three years. The last time I read Murakami, one of my absolute favourites, was literally before my records began.

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