This bird has flown!

By Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree

As the Beatles’ song ‘Norwegian Wood’ is heard playing through the airplane speakers, nostalgia takes Toru Watanabe, a middle-aged successful businessman, back to his teen days. The song gets him to reminisce the days full of love- one girl stands out from his several love affairs and flings, yet with a presence of pain, melancholia and confusion as expected from a teenager’s psyche.

Published in 1987 in Japan and sold millions of copies from then till now, Haruki Murakami’s widely famous novel ‘Norwegian Wood’ has much more to it than just exploring the love life of a young man.

Kizuki and his girlfriend Naoko were the only friends of 17-year-old Toru. The scenario changes with Kizuki’s sudden suicide and the remaining two eventually move to Tokyo for college. There, Naoko falls into depression whereas Toru gets allured by a Casanova life. One thing that makes this novel interesting is how sexual promiscuity is explored in the lives of the characters, realising that love and sexuality go hand in hand. To some extent it seems that sexuality has almost in every case turned out to be an escape root for the mentally disturbed and restless characters to find solace in.

Toru and Naoko has a brief affair, which later on comes in the way of Toru’s relationship with refreshingly lovely and extrovert Midori, who actually gives Toru the freedom to figure his relationships out with the two women. The fact that these characters do not believe in or act upon on orthodox ideas about the sanctity of love but rather follows it as innately as it comes to them from within, shows how true Murakami has been to life by presenting before his readers a comparatively less explored path of being open  and non-judgmental to human relationships. The novel successfully follows the trait of realism where people try to accept the reality as it is other than attempting to twist it in a way that suits their reasoning.

However, the vocal factor along with love and heartbreaks seem to be mental distortions, depression and slowly killing pain that existed abundantly in the characters. There are quite a few suicides, vivid depiction of a convalescent home where patients are left to nature for making peace with their inner turmoil, mentions of winter that represents death and altogether a chilly-shivering vibe which attracts the reader to go more into the depth of it. On another note, this can also be a way of Murakami to raise awareness to give special attention to mental health and provide assistance if someone shows signs of distress. People have the tendency to understate depression and other mental distresses tagging them as trivial hurdles of life which ‘shall too pass’! But as we see in the novel, it doesn’t always pass but stays to kill and ruin. The postmodern chaos of life that Murakami portrayed cannot be avoided. Death and the ultimate reality of the characters’ lives indicate to the theory of postmodernism that chaos is insurmountable.

Although the story of the novel may seem immature to some people who have seen and experienced life enough, it shall appeal to the broader range of readers as it has been doing since its publication. As a cherry on top, the book has a lot of lovely lines and dialogues which the reader will feel like going through countless of times.

‘We were alive, she and I. And all we had to think about was continuing to live.’-the ending ends with a loophole; let’s not give it away here. As you read, you shall find it out yourself, but beware of a shocker awaiting you!’

 

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Author- Haruki Murakami

ISBN- 9780099448822

Price- 700 BDT

 

 

 

 

 

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail.”