Wednesday 4 November 2009

Hear the Wind Sing

Originally published in Japan in 1979, Alfred Birnbaum's translation appeared in the Kodansha English Library series in 1987. This book and 'Pinball 1973', (which is the harder of the two to get hold of a physical copy), haven't been widely available at the author's own behest. I wondered for a while, on the cover at the top of the illustration it reads, 'Happy Birthday and White Christmas', this apparently was the title of the book when Murakami submitted it to the literary magazine Gunzo. It's a small book, 130 pages
to the novel, with an additional 35 pages of notes for the Japanese reader, as this series is aimed at helping Japanese readers of the English language. It's Murakami's first novel.
The narrator of the novel acknowledges he learnt everything about writing from the fictional writer Derek Heartfield, who jumped off the Empire State Building in 1938, clutching a portrait of Hitler in his right hand and an umbrella in his left. The story of a student,  (were not told his name), in his early twenties, who has returned home for summer holiday (Aug 1970), from studying Biology in a Tokyo University. In it he describes how he came to meet the Rat, a character that features in Murakami's other early novels. As
a youth the narrator tells us he didn't say much, and was taken to a psychologist for testing, he was silent until the age of 14. He visits J's Bar and drinks beer with the Rat, they exchange their observations on life. He tells how he woke up next to a woman, can't remember her name, he tells her that the previous night she drunk too much and was sprawled out on the floor of J's, in her wallet he had found her address, and taken her home, and kept watch over her,intending to leave but fell asleep, he didn't do anything, he reassures her. They part when she has to go to work, her character, and the Rat's seem to me the two main characters of the novel, we see them through the narrator's detached observations, he never appears judgemental of them, Murakami's narrator's I find have a certain aloofness to them sometimes, it's almost as if they are acting as counsellor to the characters around them.
A hiccuping DJ from a radio station phones him with a dedication from a mysterious girl we never learn the identity of, he attempts to find her,believing it to be someone from his school days, but fails to trace her. Going into a record store he meets again the woman who he found drunk at J's, who invites him over, a few days later, for beef stew, during the meal they seem to be getting closer, she tells him she's going away for a while, when she returns they meet again and among other things, she confides in him that she had had an operation,also she tells him how she hears voices of people telling her things, usually scolding her, themes that Murakami explores further in his later works, can be seen here, loneliness, alienation. In a separate narrative, he recalls the three girls he has slept with,
the third hung herself, he didn't know why, he suspects that she didn't either. The Rat's reading habits are noted throughout the book's progression, and Murakami's love of music is evident, you could quite easily make a compilation LP with all the tracks referenced in the book. The book was also adapted to film by Kazuki Omori in 1980.

I think I fall into the category of liking Murakami's longer novels over his shorter novellas, and his short stories I really enjoy, so I'm looking forward to reading 1Q84, and also seeing the film version of  'Norwegian Wood', which is due at the end of next year. I've seen
'Tony Takitani', but to start going into Murakami's works on film, might need to be explored in a separate post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've got to agree with you. Murakami's short stories are often quite good. A good way to get into his writing.