My Norwegian Wood Experience (Spoiler Ahead)

by : Fatma Chingu

Its been ages my fellow readers~

Now I am gonna breakdown whats transpired from my journey through Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood.

First, I am going to confess that I don’t fancy the idea of reading a Murakami before. I am skeptical of course because Ruby loves him and I know I can never read anything that Ruby likes (sorry Ruby) since her taste is a bit “heavy” for me. In my defence, she loves to indulge herself in deep, philosophical, history kind of material (Palah too, just she is more interested in topics like ecosystem and Middle-Eastern issues) while me yeah, K-Drama and shallow things are more to my preferences.

How did I ended up reading a Murakami?

Simple, I just randomly bought one during my trip to Miri. It just so happens that I was strolling around the bookstore and saw Norwegian Wood. I got curious of course not by the title but because its Haruki Murakami. I thought “How fucked up his book could be? I should put myself to the test,” and there you go! My first Murakami.

I even posted that on my Instagram. A moment to remember heh?

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Now moving on to the reading part.

Well the story consists of the main character’s monologue and his views. His name is Toru Watanabe.

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In his head, he is the most normal guy. But for me as a reader, he is a mess. There might be people who thinks otherwise but I really think he is not a normal guy. Who can be normal with all those tragedies happening around you? Lost a best friend who committed a suicide and crushing his best friend’s girlfriend who he only meets years later who ends up disappearing after a one night stand?

And yet he considers himself a normal guy. Optimism.

He eats alone, basically he enjoys solidarity.

“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment. ”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

He could not even bothered to make friend with anyone but a guy, Kazuki. Kazuki is a smart guy (with similar taste in literature as Toru) and he is a major playboy. He takes Toru around to sleep with girls every now and then. Sex is just a physical activity, its healthy-for both of them. Love and sexual intercourse are different circles altogether, they does not overlap.

Let’s face it, humans are beast. Not bad of Murakami to have that in the story right? I am pretty sure lots of people could actually relate themselves to that. Fair comment.

What is a story without a heroine?

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That girl who runs away after one-night stand-Naoko.

Strangely I am invested in her character the most. At first, she is just a sad girl but as the story progresses, she is depressing as hell. She got her scars embedded deep inside her as she has been through a lot since childhood and experience suicides from two people she loves. She is damaged and beyond repair.

But I rooted for her.

Until the end.

And its not enjoyable.

 

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Midori, the second girl. She is a bright character (at least she jokes around more) in this story. I like her character, a lot. Confident, brutally honest and lewd.

She talks a lot about herself with Toru but I noticed he has not opened up about himself with Midori. Somehow Toru is not that open with Midori but the good feelings is still there. I am pretty sure that Toru is drawn to Midori not because he wants to, but because Midori made herself someone who Toru could be attracted to. Now that’s girl power.

Halfway through the book, I was forced to stop reading and called Ruby. I feel like I have been consumed by the story. Suddenly I feel depressed myself.

Well to sum the conversation between Ruby and I about me being engulfed in the story (too dramatic of me apparently), Ruby advised me to treat the book as a literature, instead of a door to my subconscious mind or any window to my soul-that kind of self-realization shit.

That moment I realized this is not a romance fiction. This book is all about growing up and becoming a young adult and as one, I can relate to the struggles of being conflicted about responsibilities not just in terms of physical beings but also the chain of relationships with people around us. Being a young adult means you are in power of your own words and action. If you choose to end your life, that’s the end for you. But for the people you left behind? Their time still runs and the hurt from your passing remains until their time is up. Unfair right?

“Only the Dead stay seventeen forever.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

What I like about this story is each character represents the different approaches in life.

Toru is someone who choose a safe path, being very cautious and kind to the ones he loves and just follow the flow. And the flow is not necessarily good. Have a stand for god’s sake.

Naoko is the pessimist. She has been been beaten up in life and instead of fighting more, she chosen to go down and drown herself in sorrow. In a way we cannot blame her for being miserable but life does not end at will unless we decided that way, right? She is just a sad character, and I always wishes she could be the other way around.

“No truth can cure the sorrow 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 it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Midori is fierce, non-nonchalant and takes risk. Her effort to pursue Toru (set aside the fact she was dating someone else in the process) and outwardly confessed to him makes me want to applaud her. She is not someone who succumb to negative energy of events. She does the opposite. Like when her father dies, instead of being a potato and locking herself away in despair, she went out to a vacation with her boyfriend to cheer herself up.

“I don’t care what you do to me, but I don’t want you to hurt me. I’ve had enough hurt already in my life. More than enough. Now I want to be happy.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Midori is clear with her feelings. To be honest, that’s a trait to be jealous of. For me at least. Compromising own feelings to avoid any unnecessary conflicts (be it work or personal life) proven to be a poison instead of a remedy. Truth to that. And in the end, Toru chosen her. Who wins? Everybody.

Who said being honest does not pay off?

To sum up the book experience, it is a complete literature and Murakami has impressed me with his style of writing. He makes me feel things, vision the scenes and empathize with the characters. Norwegian Wood is a story filled with truth, at least for me.

“Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Fun facts :

His readers have been speculating that this story actually happens to him, and the main character was inspired from his personal experience. At the credit part of the book he quickly dismissed that by saying his real experience will only produced 14 pages. It was that boring.

And it has a movie version. Warning ahead, some scenes are absent. So keep an open mind before watching the movie if you read the book first.

Just read the book before watching the movie.

Be fair to yourself.

P/S: This is my first book review. So be open minded okay? Haruki’s fans might have a different opinion from mine. This review might be not be gory-ly detailed but I am writing this quite sometime after I finished reading it. So some facts might be inaccurate. But the quotes are from Goodreads so… they are the exact ones. /laughs/

Click on this to read Ruby’s review on another Murakami:

https://threechinguz.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimage-haruki-murakami/

Till next time!

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[Book Review] – A Fort of Nine Towers (2013) By Qais Akbar Omar

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.”- Qais Akbar Omar

My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).
My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).

If you ask me is it that GOOD to give 5 stars for this book, i would say 5 is not good enough. I cried, I laughed, I cheered and I felt all sort of emotions that the author told me via his story. This book consisted of 3 parts of author and his family story in it. The first part, you felt warmhearted imagining at the back of your head how he told his childhood story. The way he presented his point of view about his culture is just an honest expression of how he felt due to the way he was raised. He was born in the Pashtun Family and he lived together in a big house with his uncles, aunties and his grandfather is in their culture. He talked about it and enlightened those who find it such a strange culture. He described his childhood to be bright and colorful as he was surrounded by playful cousins and loving relatives. He pointed out that though his family are from Pashtun ethnic but he never spoke Pashto in the house. All of his family members are comfortable using Dari (another language that are widely used in Afghanistan aside Pashto). It is not a big deal for him because he learned Pashto and knew how to use it but he stated that he preferred Dari More. The Kite competition during his past childhood is one of the fiercest battle he ever encountered when he was a kid. He bragged about how his cousin Wakeel can easily defeated other opponent and has been named as ‘The Cruel Kite Cutter’ in their neighborhood. He cherished the moment of one of his family’s servants, Bahar helped him to win the competition by cutting Wakeel’s kite. For the author, The childhood in the big house with all of his cousins is one of the best memories he had.

The second part, you started feeling sad and wanted to help them to get through that awful war ( from Russian, Mujahideen, Taliban and American army). When the war (The Mujahideen Army) is approaching Afghanistan, The Author’s family felt that they are the savior. They had came to chase the Russian and Communism. They felt optimistic about this Army and wished that they will build back their destroyed nation. They are indeed wrong. Not long after Mujahideen’s arrival, The power struggle between factions occurred. Many died because of that. The author’s family felt they are no longer safe staying at their big house. The battle between factions of Mujahideen had turned most of them from being a ‘God’s Man’ to ‘Low-class criminal’. They robbed other’s properties and killed those who defied them. Fearing that their life will not be saved, the author’s family decided to take a refuge in his father’s friend house. They stayed there until American Army came to hunt every single Taliban army that resides in the country. The whole feeling when i read the second part is helplessness. I cant bloody do anything, I just keep moving on to the next pages, hoping the author’s family survived the calamity fell upon them. There was one scene that i deeply remembered because i truly feared that the author and his grandfather will not survived. First scene is when his grandfather stubbornly wanted to take a look at his house that he left a long time ago since Mujahideen Army came. He wanted to bring Author’s uncle originally but his uncle pleaded to wait until a few days for ceasefire between factions to happen. However, His grandfather could not wait any longer and ordered the author to go with him. When his father did not object his grandfather’s decision, he knew he had to accompany him no matter what. When they are on their way, They has been captured by Hazara’s faction of Mujahideen. It was truly a terrifying moment. They had been locked in a room where the walls are full of writing of those who ever lived in it. His grandfather knew that they are going to be killed. He told the author to be strong and in case if he’s got a chance to live, try his hardest to escape. He also told the author that those men might ‘used’ him but he insisted him to endure as surviving is more important. The author cried and asked his grandfather to stop talking nonsense. When the leader of the faction asked what they are both doing in the area, His grandfather told that they are visiting his house in the area. It turned out before the war, the leader is one of the students of the author’s father. He decided to let them go and send them both back. The author picturized the whole scene as his first death escape experience.

The third part is where the age of ignorance came and how the Taliban rules did alter the whole nation. He told what he deeply felt about them in this book. He stated that they brough strange peace into the country. How peace can be such strange thing? He revealed decrees of Taliban that insisted on Hudud Punishment and Fundamentalism of Islamic Law. No Music, No Entertainment, No Pictures, No Free Relationship between Boys and Girls, No Open Courtship and up to the extend of NO to everything. How did they governed Afghanistan? They said Yes to everything which considered good in Holy Quran. When he said strange peace, he does not mean it a good way. He felt the Afghan community and culture suddenly died and they can no longer do what they usually did. He said girls in Taliban’s time faced it much worse because they cant attend school , they have to wore Burqa all the time , they cannot work and they have to be accompanied by their male relatives if they wanted to go to other places. He portrayed vividly the moment of how Taliban used the stadium to carry out the punishment of those they claimed to be a sinner. To witness the scene of girls being stoned to death, the thieves whose hand is being cut and the murderers being shot at the head right away is one of the horrifying moments author ever had. He also reflected back the time he went to jail just for not cutting his hair according to Taliban Standard. In the jail, he was beaten by the religious officers and only to be released when he could answers all of their questions about Islam and Taliban.

According to this book, The author’s cousin named Wakeel and his grandfather played a big role in his life. He cherished both of them in temple of his heart. The wording that he put in this book to portray them both is simple yet poetic. You can sense his sincerity and tenderness in the book. The author even managed to share some of the stories of good people he met despite of war in his journey back and forth with his family.Whether it is from Hazara, Turkmenistan or Pashtun, They are indeed kind people who helped him when he needed it.

Can you see how huge this book is?
Can you see how huge this book is? The book size that i preferred is on my left (The Kite Runner Book) and in the middle one (which i tolerated because it is not that heavy).

To be honest, I hated books that had a huge size (compared to the normal size) which is for me difficult to hold it during reading. This book turned me off right away when i first saw it sitting among bookshelves in a local bookstore. I wanted to ignore the book and move on to another section but my instinct kept asking me to flip a few pages of this particular book. I turned a few pages of this book and i sighed. There is no foreword or rave review by other famous authors. I am skeptical at first but i bought it. I bought it in the sense that i loved non fiction books and above all, it is middle-eastern literature especially from Afghanistan and Iran. After reading a few chapters, I was completely blown away. I wondered how Afghani authors (Khaled Hosseini and others) can easily grasp my attention and i am completely hooked on the way he told his tale. If you like Khaled Hosseini, You should buy this book. What differentiate Qais Akbar Omar from Khaled Hosseini is he did tell the TRUE story and what really happpened to him while he was growing up in Afghanistan in a time of War. I can assure you guys that this book is indeed one of the best books i’ve ever read in 2014.

Shala (2011) : Marathi Film Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: 4.5/5

Shala (2011) is a bit of everything that will instantly make you miss your school. It does not matter whether that is where you met your first love, the first time you were being punished by your teacher, the times you spent with your classmates and friends or what grade did you flunked and cannot proceed to the following grade. This only happened at school. Joshi, the main character is a smart and hardworking boy in the class. He is surrounded by his friends (Surya or also known as Mathe, Chitrya and Favdya) who didn’t really do well in their studies. Prior to that, he’s ended up being a helper in their study and homework. He doesn’t mind it because they all are friends. After all, what are friends for? The friendship that they had is beautiful. When Joshi got bullied, his friends defended him. When Joshi got beaten by her teacher, his friends searched for a school guardian so that he could apply an ointment on Joshi’s wound. Joshi is looked up by his friends and whenever they play quizzes between boys and girls, they knew they can depend on Joshi. He always managed to get a correct answer.

Joshi, Chitrya (chitre), Surya (Mhatre) & Favdya
Joshi, Chitrya (chitre), Surya (Mhatre) & Favdya
Anshuman Joshi as Mukund Joshi
Anshuman Joshi as Mukund Joshi

Joshi is raised in a typical Indian family (but not very typical, I guess). He has a mom who does not working and a sister who just finished school and waiting to get married. The time setting for this film is the pre-emergency (set in the 70’s in the rural India). I don’t know much about India’s history but while watching the film, I saw many conversations led to how the time is not right and people are being extra careful to their surrounding because they don’t know when it will happen. The talk of ‘emergency’ suddenly become a sensitive issue and people avoided to talk about it in the open space. Joshi, being a very perceptive and a good listener, knew about it and felt it is not right. He discussed it with his teacher where his teacher pointed out that Joshi is right but he can’t talk about it any further due to Joshi is still young at that time.

Joshi and His Uncle
Joshi and His Uncle

Joshi has a very close relationship to his uncle. For him, His uncle is the liberation source of him. He learned English from him and even went to watch many English movies together with him. His uncle treated Joshi like friend but in the same time, insisted him to keep focused and motivated in study but never forget to follow his heart. In this film, it showed that Joshi dare to do many things due to his uncle’s advice. I remember one particular scene where Joshi met his classmate at Cineplex and scoffed her at the back for going out with a guy who is a lot older than her. His uncle then said to him ‘You were supposed to applaud her for her boldness. It is because of people like her that our country can move forward and progress. Her bravery to do something that people cannot do is something to be admired’. You’ve got to admit it is true. It makes sense if you heard it in the 70’s. It is the time where mostly parents are conservative.

Ketaki Mategaonkar as Shirodkar
Ketaki Mategaonkar as Shirodkar
Joshi and Shirodkar
Joshi and Shirodkar

In this film, Joshi’s age is 14. It is the age of teens. It is the time where people will say ‘boys will be boys’ and it goes vice versa. Joshi did like one of his classmates named Shirodkar but he can’t bring himself to confess to her. He was shy and so was she. They exchanged glance in the class but that was it. He then took initiative to attend extra tuition where he found out earlier that Shirodkar also attended. He was happy and tried to strategize on how he could talk to her. Later, he confessed to her. They became friends for a brief amount of time. Not long after that, one of Joshi’s friend, Surya wanted to confess to a girl he liked. Joshi does not want to accompany Surya but he was dragged along by him. Sadly, the confession went wrong and the girl rejected Surya right away. When they were in the class that day, they were called by the principal. The girl reported to her parent and her parent brought this matter to school. Surya and Joshi were being canned and were told to bring their father to the meeting on the following day. The fault is not so serious but the girl framed Surya that he held her hand and Joshi was his accomplice. They denied the allegation to the principal but the principal refused to listen.

Joshi told everything to his father
Joshi told everything to his father

When Joshi brought the warning to his father, his father remained calm and quiet. His mother and sister repeatedly scolded him and could not understand why his father didn’t hit him. It was quite a relief seeing his father and his uncle is very similar in educating the children. They communicated and talked first to know what really happened. Joshi told his father everything and swore that he and surya didn’t touch the girl’s hand at all. He told his father that Surya confessed his love to the girl and when he’s being turned down by the girl, they let the girl passed by. His father smiled at Joshi and hugged him assured that nothing will happen to him. We all know that to have a father like Joshi is one in a million ratios especially when you are from typical Asian family. You will be scolded first although you are innocent just like his sister and mother did to him. His father insisted that the girl told the truth and assured the principal that this was puberty case. They were growing up and they tend to do a reckless thing.

They met at the old building to discuss their homework and study together before school.
They met at the old building to discuss their homework and study together before going to school.

This film basically emphasized on the point that you have to cherish every moment in your life. If you don’t, you will regret later for not doing so. When everything is going so well in Joshi’s life, Shirodkar moved away and didn’t even meet Joshi to bid adieu. Joshi managed to get the fifth place in his 9th grade and will proceed to 10th grade. However, 2 of his friends failed the exam and another one is quitting school due to his family problems. At the final scene, Joshi sat on the big rock alone and sobbing that he’s going to face 10th grade without his friends. By the way, Shala in Marathi means School.

Book Review: The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4/5
My Rating: 4/5

We Iranians are like the cypress tree. We may bend and bend on the wind but we will never break’ 

I bought this book last year and I only got a chance to read it this year. Why I took so long to read, I don’t even know. Maybe it does not have an appealing cover like some middle-eastern non-fiction books like a piercing stare by a young girl who wore a burqa or a war image captured by some famous journalist.  Iran, in my opinion, is a truly country that makes you wonder and ponder. This country is formed from an empire of great Persia to the reign of Shah, then it has been handed to Khomeini and it changed into the Islamic Republic of Iran until now. This book featured an interesting perspective from a refugee who just returned to her own country where she used to call it home once.

I read some of the books about Iran like Persepolis, not without my daughter and so many more. However, this one struck in my mind a bit longer. Kamin told a tale about her big family but in the same time, she poured her heart out to her beloved country. She returned to Iran after a long time and sudden regret bloomed from her heart for not preserving her own culture and tradition in her foreign country. The language for this book is quite simple actually. When the language is not so difficult to understand, you connected with the author much quicker than you thought.

From the event of how her grandfather and her grandmother get married, how her mother standing up to her conservative father to avoid from being married off and even got a chance to further in higher education and work in a management level in some company until to the event of Shah Downfall in Iran and How Khomeini stated ‘He felt nothing’ when people asked how he felt right after he returned to Iran. I could connect with Kamin because she wrote the Iran history in a view of a person who yearn a freedom and peace for her country. She looked back into her childhood and teenage hood where she learned many things from her uncles, aunties, cousins and even her grandmother. She pointed out how the Iranian revolution somehow turned many things upside down including breaking many relations through betrayals and how many deaths she encountered during the event.

Kamin also vividly narrated the experience of leaving Iran and seeking a refuge in England somehow changed and altered her behavior but failed to change her parents. Her parents still continuing living in England like how they live in Iran but with a different community. Since they are no longer with a big family, gatherings will be attended by an Iranian community who’s faced the similar fate of fled from the country. Kamin confessed how her teen- rebellious phase forcing her to abandon Farsi, her language that she spoke everyday at Iran into a thick accent of English in England. Little did she know it will show how she made a bad choice when she barely able speaks that language when she returned to Iran.

I have no criticism on the book as I always enjoyed reading non-fiction books. I love reading about people lives, tragedy, experience, difficulty or any events that changed the idea of living their life. I find it very gutsy and me myself hoping I could able to do that someday. I wish Kamin did put an assemblage of her family photos in the book so that readers could see it. If you wanted to know about Iran’s history but does not want to read a thick book with a very small letter, this book might do you good.