Book Review: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

So I finally finished this book. And boy, what a fucking mind trip.

It’s taken me a full week to recover from the bewilderment I experienced after finishing The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Prior to starting this book, someone warned me in advance about what a deep and dark read it would be. So basically, every time I took a break, I’d think about the warning and how I could possibly finish this novel out, sanely. Yeah, it’s hardcore but at the same time I was blown away by his writing. The way he wrote about life, death and how a person can cope when someone they love leaves them.

So basically, the story begins well enough; protagonist Toru Okada – a polite, shy, loving but unambitious guy – is introduced living in a suburban area of Tokyo with his wife Kumiko and cat Noburo Wataya (named after Kumiko’s brother).  Soon both wife and cat mysteriously disappear from Toru’s life, and what follows is an increasingly confusing sequence of events interspersed with cod-philosophical musings on, for example, the transitory nature of loneliness, a lot of pointless sex and violence, and the modernist quest to find meaning in an increasingly homogenised society. I still don’t know what this book means to me. Though, I do think it helped shed some light about a particular person.

Murakami’s book spoke truth and I pretty much underlined half of this book:

I could feel only a generalized kind of sympathy for a fellow human being who had met with a sudden, violent death. That generalized emotion might be very real for me and at the same time not real at all.

I’m good at doing all kinds of things even when I’m in the middle of a delusion.

He always had the sense that fate had forced him to decide things to suit its own convenience. On occasion, after the momentary satisfaction of having decided something of his own free will, he would see that things had been decided beforehand by an external power cleverly camouflaged as free will, mere bait thrown in his path to lure him into behaving as he was meant to.

The two of us are linked together by the heavy bonds of silence that pass through the wall separating our two worlds.

But I can’t help myself sometimes. I know exactly what I’m doing, but I just can’t stop. That’s my greatest weakness.

Anyhow, even though I might go out on a date with a boy, emotionally I just wouldn’t be able to concentrate. I’d be smiling and chatting away, and my mind will be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string. I’d be thinking about one unrelated thing after another. I don’t know, I guess finally I want to be alone a little while longer. And I want to let my thoughts wander freely. In that sense, I guess, I’m probably still “on the road to recovery.”

I realize full well how hard it must be to go on little alone in a place from which someone has left you, but there is nothing so cruel in this world as the desolation of having nothing to hope for.

So we need death to make us evolve.

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, and overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled.

We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person’s essence?


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