Saturday 30 January 2016

Asian stories and Western sensibilities

The past week saw me ordering Haruki Murakami's two books on an impulse after a passionate conversation with my friend/colleague on how reading time is slowly leaving our systems. I started reading Norwegian Wood first, for no specific whim or reason and thus began my journey into the lives of Watanabe, Naoko, Midori, Reiko and several others. I have read Murakami before and the remembrance of past reading pleasures drew me to his books again. It comes as a surprise to me that somehow I pick up a Murakami in the beginning month of the year. About two years ago, I had read Murakami on a January and also had written a post (Murakami and related thoughts), which surprisingly echoes most of what I have written now albeit in a slightly different manner. Murakami is Asian, Japanese to be specific but that awareness slowly dissipates as I progress with the book. That Murakami is a fan of the pop songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s is quite limpid in his works. In fact, the title Norwegian Wood  is the title of one of the popular Beatles' songs. Now, my senses are quite welcoming of the references to diverse cultures and habits and knowing fully well that a Murakami will lead me to the Japanese way of life, I tend to lose my way somewhere in the pages. Though my imagination is coloured with petite women and men with pale skin colour, somewhere I lose the track and start imagining western people and surroundings. Then, mid-way, I realise that here I am reading a Japanese author and imagining western people. The character Reiko, especially. She plays the guitar and belts out popular numbers, all of which I know quite well, having grown up listening to them. My image of Reiko is that of a blond, fairly well-built with an imposing personality but then reality often intervenes and I try hard to stop this as it seems sacrilegious to do so.

I wonder whether I owe this to the explicit Western sensibilities of Murakami or to my knowledge of the songs which colour the story or my imagination which is used to imagining white skin and blond hair (Read influence of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen and other sundry writers). Whatever the reason, alongside getting entwined in the characters' lives, a parallel track on my imagination was also niggling me.

Well, I have now completed Norwegian Wood and have embarked on the second novel, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

A quote from the book Norwegian Wood

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet


  1. haha....welcome to the Murakami-san fan club....join the fan boys and go drink your sorrows out while contemplating the futile existence that we call life

    1. What a pessimistic way to slot Murakami. At least in Norwegian Wood, hope was always round the corner!

      Glad to see you stop by Dok.



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