Sunday, 3 February 2013

Norwegian Wood

by Murakami Haruki

What makes us most normal is knowing that we're not normal.

The protagonist/narrator, Tōru Watanabe, remembers the time of his youth, about the end of Sixties, when he wasn't able to find his path, and let himself live, cultivating a few of strange friendships, unconscious of being accomplishing the hard transition to adulthood.

My first experience with Murakami has been certainly good. The novel did not completely convinced me, maybe because after I heard everybody acclaiming this author so much I expected something different, but it's been anyway a pleasant reading.

The characters are a few, and they're all odd! My favourite is Midori (by the way I discovered, thanks to this book, that this name means "green: it's really a beautiful name!). Midori is an unconventional girl, since her first appearance she seems outgoing and doesn't mince her words, and most of all she trusts Watanabe very quickly: she starts immediatly to tell him about her, her past, her thoughts. Every now and then I thought she was hateful, expecially in the last part of the novel, and the reason that she's been throught a lot is not sufficient in my opinion to justify her completely, but her character so lively makes me understand -if not love- her, even in these moments of dislike.

I found in Murakami's style at the same time something familiar and something new. Scenes descriptions seemed to me sometimes too full of details, expecially because they're memories of a men who speaks almost twenty years later. But nonetheless during the reading I had the impression that I was reading "real" memories, I mean, really real, like it wasn't a novel, but an autobiography. Anyway, I liked it a lot: reading Murakami's pages, regardless of the novel in itself, has been a real pleasure!

The plot is maybe the thing with I had more problem. It's my very personal opinion, but tales about these disturbed kids, full of problems, who bear on their shoulders burden too heavy for them... it's not something I want to read! If I had known that that was the topic of this book, I would have probably never chosen it among Murakami's works. So, this demonstrates that is nice sometimes take a book which I don't know anything about, because otherwise I'd lost a reading I enjoyed a lot!

After the first half of the book I started worrying about the ending. I was afraid that the book could have finished abruptly, leaving actions and events pending.

Overall review.
As I said at the beginning, this novel made me feel a little puzzled. I was going to give it only 3 stars, but then I realized that my feelings were probably due to my previous expectations, and I thought that wasn't fair to penalize the novel for that! :) And, I can't deny it, I really liked this book.
Now I'm very courious to read other Murakami's novels, expecially because they say that this book is a lot different from the rest of Murakami's production, so I want to discover if a novel with a different theme, written always so well, can finally earn from me 5 stars!

Book Info

Title: Norwegian Wood
Author: Murakami Haruki (official site)
Original title: ノルウェイの森 (Noruwei no mori)
Italian title: Norwegian Wood (also known as Tokyo Blues)
First publication date: 1987
Publisher: Einaudi
Italian translation: Giorgio Amitrano
English translation: Jay Rubin
Pages: 379


I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport. Cold November rains drenched the earth, lending everything the gloomy air of a Flemish landscape: the ground crew in waterproofs, a flag atop a squat airport building, a BMW billboard. So - Germany again.

I realize that all I can place in the imperfect vessel of writing are imperfect memories and imperfect thoughts.

I had met a lot of weird people in my day, but none as strange as Nagasawa. He was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years. "That's the only kind of book I can trust," he said.

I rather doubt that the world has problems far more urgent and relevant than Greek tragedy.
The drama teacher

"[...] The best thing about this place is the way everybody helps everybody else. Everybody knows they're flawed in some way, and so they try to help each other. Other places don't work that way, unfortunately. Doctors are doctors and patients are patients: the patient looks for help to the doctor and the doctor gives his help to the patient. Here, though, we all help each other. [...] You help Naoko and Naoko helps you."
"What should I do, then? Give me an example."
"First you decide that you want to help and that you need to be helped by the other person."
Reiko and Watanabe

"There are people who can open their hearts and people who can't. You're one of the ones who can. Or, more precisely, you can if you want to."
"What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better."
Reiko and Watanabe

All his stories of the old days are like that. No drama whatsoever. They're all just a little bit off-centre. I don't know, when he tells those stories, you kind of get the feeling like nothing important has happened in Japan for the past 50 or 60 years. The young officers' uprising of 1936, the Pacific War, they're all kind of "Oh yeah, now that you mention it, I guess something like that once happened' kind of things.
Midori abaout her father

Life is a box of chocolates. [...] You know, they've got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don't like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don't like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. "Now I just have to polish these off, and everything'll be OK." Life is a box of chocolates.

If you're in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark.

No truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning.

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