Sunday, April 06, 2014

“Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami (translated by Jay Rubin) – Hopeless Love

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Book cover)
Toru and Nakao form a rather simple and perhaps even run-of-the-mill couple; they are both college students, with Toru being quiet, serious and focused on his studies, and Nakao being the beautiful and introspective kind.

Unfortunately, their relationship is soured by the demise of their mutual friend years ago, and the pressures of College life are starting to wear down on them. When faced with such difficulties, the two lovers react differently; Nakao becomes increasingly withdrawn from the outside into her own world, which in turn forces Toru to reach out to the external world to fight his isolation.


As the relationship becomes increasingly complicated, things from the frying pan and into the fire as Toru makes the acquaintance of a young and sexually-experienced woman, who he ends up falling for. In the end, this leads Toru on a very special journey, one during which he discovers the beauty and suffering hopeless love can bring.

This is the premise of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and frankly it feels rather different from his other novels. Though there certainly is the classic Murakami symbolism and a slight surrealistic feeling to it all, this book feels much more grounded in reality, far simpler than his other novels; this is seen, in my opinion, both in the writing itself and the content.

It seems that the author decided to focus on the story and the development of the characters this time around rather than the unraveling and discussion of various themes, though you can be sure you’ll find some of that in here as well.

As for the story itself, I have to say that it is a rather touching one and most people will probably be able to relate to it as it revolves around a rather common situation, but one that ends up marking people who go through it.

We get to see how Toru deals with the possibility of the unknown, with his indecisiveness in regards to whether or not he should wait for his girlfriend to get better (it is unknown whether it will happen at all) or free himself and pursue the woman who is right there for him.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Book cover)
I really enjoyed the fact that Murakami managed to avoid sob story territory and tell this tale in a beautiful fashion which depicted this whole process as simply being another part of the great life for us to enjoy, rather than a tragedy to spill tears over.

All in all, despite being a bit simpler in its nature Norwegian Wood still remains a classic Murakami novel, with an engrossing story, well-developed and relatable characters, hints of comedy, tragedy, and surrealism, and the exploration of a rather grand theme: love. If you are looking for a different take on coming-of-age stories, this novel will definitely be right up your alley.



Haruki Murakami (January 12, 1949)

Haruki Murakami


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Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer and author of numerous bestsellers, some of which earned him the Franz Kafka Prize, the Jerusalem Prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and others. Some of his better known works include Hear the Wind Sing and Kafka on the Shore.

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