Home » Norské dřevo by Haruki Murakami
Norské dřevo Haruki Murakami

Norské dřevo

Haruki Murakami

Published 2009
ISBN : 9788020713025
Hardcover
302 pages
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 About the Book 

Twenty RevolutionsMy most feared birthday was my 20th.For people older than me, the most significant birthday was their 21st.But when the age of legal adulthood was reduced to 18, turning 21 no longer had the same significance it once had.Before then, you could be conscripted into the armed forces at 18, but you could not drink alcohol until you turned 21.So, if you were old enough to die for your country, surely you were old enough to have a drink?Either way, turning 20 for me meant that I had ceased to be a teenager, a group of people linked only by the fact that their age ended in the suffix “-teen”, but still it felt special not belonging to the grown up crowd.On the other side of 20, you emerge from university (if you’ve been lucky enough to go there) and dive straight into full-time employment, maturity, responsibility, expectations and adulthood.Suddenly, things are all a lot more serious, more permanent, less experimental, or this is how it seems.Japanese-StyleHaruki Murakami writes about the Japanese experience in “Norwegian Wood”.It’s set in the years 1968 to 1970, so it mightn’t be the same now.However, it seems that the transition into adulthood is more demanding, more stressful.It also seems that there are more casualties, more teenagers fail to make the transition and end up committing suicide.Murakami writes about the transition almost like it’s a game of snakes and ladders.You can climb into the future, success and normality, or you can slide into darkness, failure and death.Well, WellMurakami’s protagonist, Toru Watanabe, pictures the darkness as a well-like abyss early in the novel when he recounts the events of a day he spent with the girl he longs for, Naoko.“I can describe the well in minute detail. It lay precisely on the border where the meadow ended and the woods began – a dark opening in the earth a yard across, hidden by grass. Nothing marked its perimeter – no fence, no stone curb (at least not one that rose above ground level). It was nothing but a hole, a wide-open mouth…You could lean over the edge and peer down to see nothing. All I knew about the well was its frightening depth. It was deep beyond measuring, and crammed full of darkness, as if all the world’s darknesses had been boiled down to their ultimate density.”As a teenager, Toru’s life had been fairly innocuous, he had been playing in a meadow compared with the thicket that awaited him in the future.But first he had to avoid the well in making the transition.As his friend Reiko says in another context:“She and I were bound together at the border between life and death.”There is a sense in which we have to negotiate the boundaries as safely as we can, to cross the border and close the gap.If we are lucky, we can do it together.Unfortunately, not everybody is destined to make it into the forest and out the other side.Vanishing ActThe overwhelming feel of reading “Norwegian Wood” is one of being in a blank, dream-like, ethereal world.Although Murakami describes people, surroundings and objects with precision, it all seems other worldly, as if everybody lives and breathes in a world beyond this world.There is a sense that at any moment, it could all disappear, that it might all just be part of some cosmic vanishing act.Even if we make it through, we might turn around and discover that some of our friends haven’t been so lucky.Talking about My GenerationMost of the action in the novel is dialogue, the characters talking about themselves and their relationships.They are preoccupied with themselves, introspective and self-centred.They converse, they play folk songs on the guitar, they write letters that are later burned.Nobody makes anything that will last, other than perhaps themselves and the relationships that are able to survive into adulthood.They struggle for permanence, when everything else around them is ephemeral.Even their memories fade.In the “frightful silence” of the forest, Naoko asks Toru:“I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?”Of course, he responds that he will, although 20 years later, he finds that his memory “has grown increasingly dim.”“What if I’ve forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud?...the thought fills me with an almost unbearable sorrow.”To which he adds, “Because Naoko never loved me.”“Norwegian Wood”The Beatles song features throughout the novel.It’s a favourite of Naoko’s and Reiko plays it frequently on her guitar.For much of the novel, the lyrics could describe Toru’s relationship with Naoko and his other love interest, Midori:“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”There is a sense of sadness in the sexual subject matter of this novel, almost as if its been written in a minor key.Reiko sums up the Beatles pretty accurately, “Those guys sure knew something about the sadness of life,” she says, before adding, “and gentleness”, almost as an afterthought.She Never Loved MeI love all of this talk of love and longing and loss and loneliness and labyrinths (all the “L” words).Not everybody feels the same, though.You should have heard my wife, F.M. Sushi, when she noticed my tears and stole a look at what I was reading.“Why don’t these people just stop moaning and get a life. Can’t they just grow up, for chrissake. Everybody’s responsible for their own orgasm.”Then she flicked the book back at me across the room, adding defiantly (and defeating my prospects that night in one fell swoop), “Especially you.”I pick up the book, find my place and resume reading where I left off (page 10), equally defiantly, and aloud...“Because Naoko never loved me.”My wife turns her back on me as I snicker at her lack of understanding of my gentle side.Growing Up (How Strange the Change from Minor to Major)Still, a few hundred pages later, I am stunned by her prescience.Toru grows up in Murakami’s delicate hands.He has to stop dreaming, he has to live in the present, he has to embrace the now that is in front of him, he has to love the one he’s with.He has to distance himself from the past, so that it becomes just a lingering memory.Reiko tells him:“You’re all grown up now, so you have to take responsibility for your choices. Otherwise, you ruin everything.”Midori (who he has ummed and ahhed about) tells him:“...you, well, you’re special to me. When I’m with you I feel something is just right. I believe in you. I like you. I don’t want to let you go.”In the pouring rain, she reveals to Toru she has broken up with the boyfriend that has prevented her from committing to him.“Why?” he asks.“Are you crazy?” she screams. “You know the English subjunctive, you understand trigonometry, you can read Marx, and you don’t know the answer to something as simple as that?Then in a scene that could come straight out of Casablanca, she says:“Drop the damn umbrella and wrap both your arms around me – hard!”How did F.M. Sushi know this would happen?That Toru would grow up and get a girl, not just any girl?That they would fall in love and not into a deep, dark well.Still I prefer Murakami’s way of telling the story.It always comes as a surprise the way he tells it, the change from minor to major.What would my wife know of these things?What I find mysterious, she finds obvious.When I find the harbour hard to fathom, she appears to walk on water.If you put her in a labyrinth, she would always find her way out.Whereas sometimes I prefer to hang around and enjoy the experience of being down in the rabbit hole.Mystified. Confused. Excited.At least for a little wile.Original Review: October 3, 2011Audio Recording of My ReviewBird Brian once initiated a Big Audio Project, where Good Readers record and publish their reviews. Unfortunately, BB deleted his page after the amazon acquisition of GR.My recording of this review was my first contribution. You can find it on SoundCloud here:http://soundcloud.com/inksterpop/soun...