Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: no spoilers

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Read: 2008

"This bird has flown."

When the Beatles tune "Norwegian Wood" played on the airwaves, Toru Watanabe starts to reminisce upon his arrival in Hamburg, Germany.

Toru Watanabe  is torn between his complicated relationships with Naoko and Midori. Naoko was the girlfriend of Toru's best friend, Kizuki. Kizuki committed suicide and had left a more-than-miserable and emotional Naoko alone. Toru, being in love with Naoko, tries his best to comfort her and help her move on. But Naoko is helplessly haunted by her memories, guilt and love for Kizuki. Toru then meets a girl who is totally the opposite of Naoko. Midori, bright, vivid and lively, is a drama classmate of Toru. The whole story wanders around Toru's unresolved feelings for Naoko, his grievance towards Kizuki, and his blossoming love for Midori.

The story follows the typical events of lovelorn, a favorite theme of authors from the romance genre. However, what makes Norwegian Wood stand out is not its story, but its style of prose, depicting what is often intrinsic -- Toru's thoughts and feelings in words.

The characters are rounded and well-developed, from major characters to minor ones (e.g. Nagasawa, Hatsumi). Naoko and Midori are of the strongest personalities in the book.

Norwegian Wood is often categorized under romance. But Norwegian Wood is more than just romance. It exploits the complex and untouched aspects of heartache, pain, yearning, nostalgia, and other feelings. The reader could find something new in himself; mostly, to recognize the presence of feelings that were then unknown.

Murakami also gave justice to this as an erotic novel. Instead of putting 'sex' as something to relate with only love or something carnal, 'sex' has been also used as a device to depict Toru's feelings. Sex becomes subtle, but does not lose its role for the erotic genre.

Murakami deviates from his usual style of surreal fiction (which are heavily-injected of concretes such as talking cats), completely different from his other works. But one trademark of Murakami has been left --  apart from long dialogues, Murakami's language and control of metaphors make the readers imagine and visualize abstracts. That is something praiseworthy of Murakami.

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