The first story I read by Haruki Murakami was the short story “On Seeing My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning” having heard that it was a favorite story of an actor I admired and having also read that Wong Kar Wai (one of my favorite Directors) also liked his stories and that they partly inspired his film making. The short story was contained in a collection of short stories called “The Elephant Vanishes”. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I moved onto reading his other works such as “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle”, “Hear the Wind Sing”, “Pinball 1973″, “Kafka on the Shore”and “Norwegian Wood”.
Unlike the former stories ‘Norwegian Wood’ is one of the most down to earth of Murakami’s works, setting in a real world with a realistic tone. Following Toru Watanabe, a man who is in love with a girl named Naoko, the two have a close bond due to Toru’s friend, also Naoko’s boyfriend Kizuki having killed himself a few years prior.
Of all of Haruki Murakami’s stories it’s the one I least like. That is not to say I dislike it but rather I tend to sway to his less realistic stories which are easier to lose myself in. Which is strange because I like realistic stories. I find there’s an edge of reality to Norwegian Wood that gets under your skin. There’s allusions to the final events at the beginning of the novel and throughout they overshadow everything in the story. It’s unsettling in some ways and there’s a bit of dread about what will happen to Naoko.
The character of Naoko I never really liked. Midori was more the type that I found interesting. Naoko is portrayed in my view as a more selfish person. She is a tragic figure deserving of sympathy but Watanabe is messed around a bit by her and is continually sucked into her downward spiral. His attitude towards it all is seemingly mature but not altogether unusual for a guy who is barely 20. At that age people fall in and out of love at the drop of a penny and are ready devote their entire life to one person before they even know what a life lived really is. This shows in the book when he falls hard for Midori and is confused between her and Naoko. Sure Watanabe slept (not played) around with lots of girls but he is still in a way ‘pure’, untested by time in a long term relationship when we meet him at an early age. To take a quote from the book that to me describes his relationship with Naoko, “too clear and detailed to have been a fantasy, and too whole and beautiful to have been real”.
A reader of this journal has critiqued that I don’t talk enough about myself on this blog, but it’s not a blog, it’s a film journal and I’m more interested in movies than myself quite frankly. But without being too precipitous I will speak on own experience of reading this. I read this book twice, once before I came to Tokyo and again while living in Tokyo. My view of the story hasn’t really changed, but I do relate to it more. I’m familiar with the places described in the book, I have walked in Watanabe and Naoko’s footsteps. I can relate more to the characters. I think reading the novel now reflects a truer view of myself. There are truths that we can admit to ourselves later as we become more experienced in life. I think Watanabe is a character who realizes that at the beginning of the story for the beginning is far in his future with the past a fading memory in the fog. As the memories recede the truth remains.
Favorite Quote: “I’m finished as a human being. All you’re looking at is the lingering memory of what I used to be. The most important part of me, what used to be inside, died years ago, and I’m just functioning by auto-memory.” – Reiko