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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COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE – HARUKI MURAKAMI

by Ruby Gege

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Haruki Murakami is my god in literature. And please take it metaphorically. I began reading him in 2011, a novel entitled Norwegian Wood and my life changed forever. I read it and literally felt magic in my soul. Since then, I grew to be an ardent fan and now, an undisputed Murakami fanatic. Jane Austen is the most important writer for me, Orhan Pamuk taught me of love and infatuation, Gabriel Garcia Marquez taught me of loneliness…. but Haruki Murakami feeds my soul!! (overdramatic alert!!)

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My Murakami collection situated at the first-tier of the yellow shelf aka The Royal Shelf

Upon completing IQ84 sometime around last year, I have been waiting and waiting for the English version of Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. I was pretty excited considering how the premise of the novel revolved around friendship and love. Murakami does not do that often – mostly his stories are on surrealism and loneliness. More than often, his lead characters lack the capabilities of having friends. Yet, Tsukuru Tazaki had friends – not just one or two but four. Unlike other Murakami leads, Tsukuru during high school years BELONGED to a group of friends. His high school years was not ridden with isolation. He had memories, he had ambition. 

Tsukuru is different. Friendship possesses an extremely high value in his life. That is something I can relate to. All of a sudden, his friends abandoned him, cutting him off from their lives forever. Tsukuru knew he had no say in it. Thus, he accepted it. Yet, upon the loss of that friendship, he saw death. He believed something in him died. 

Ouh, feeellllsss…

What makes Colorless Tsukuru so enjoyable is also the fact that there is a mystery to be solved. Tsukuru was abandoned by his friends. Sixteen years had passed and he had moved on, at least externally. However, he yearned for an explanation, deep inside. For the youth was the best times of his life, being together with his friends, who were the colours of his life – Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro and the Red Aka. When they disappeared from their lives, the colours left, too.

From left - the Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro, Black Kuro and finally, the Colourless Tsukuru. Beneath the cover was the map of train lines.
From left – the Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro, Black Kuro and finally, the Colourless Tsukuru. Beneath the cover was the map of train lines.

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When people ask me to review Murakami’s writings, I can’t really put it into words. All I can say it – if you enjoy writings that employs a more monologue-like style that explores a lot about your inner emotions, lonelinss, insecurities, mortalities, love, scepticism and the general mood of giving up about life but there-nothing-we-can-do-about-it type of thing, then you are going to enjoy Murakami so much. Read his books and be mindfucked. Read his books and never see the world the same again. Through his writings, I learned how to appreciate loneliness and death. Despite all the seemingly ‘negative’ emotions he writes about in his stories, he never put a negative spin on it. He writes about death but never fear. He writes about loneliness and love at the same time – how one can be in love yet lonely. He broke many of the stereotypes I had – how a certain emotion can help me overcome another emotion. That was untrue. Emotions are never in our control. We may control how we act on them but never how we feel. 

Back to Colorless Tsukuru!! 

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And my favourite pages in the book!!

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Of Death
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Of Unrequited Love
Of the Glorious Youth
Of the Glorious Youth

Cannot wait for his next work!!!!

P/S – Murakami did not win the Nobel Prize for Literature last year and this year. I know he deserves it, with all my heart. I want him to win it. But it’s okay. You won my loyalty for the rest of my life, Mr Murakami. Now please pay a visit to Malaysia and sign my Murakami collection… TT