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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Haruki Murakami

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12,295232206 (4.22)2 / 709
Member:InfectiousOptimist
Title:The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
Authors:Haruki Murakami
Info:Vintage (1998), Edition: 1st Vintage International Ed, Paperback, 624 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:magical realism, WWII

Work details

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (1997)

Recently added byTravellinPenguin, crypt_fiend, private library, Sonrisadeamapola, angelista, harangar, Likuo
  1. 102
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  2. 61
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    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (andomck)
    andomck: Both books, besides having science fiction/magical realism elements, discuss bloody episodes of WWII from the point of view of everyday people.
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    booklove2: Both books involve a displaced from the world character searching for clues to solve mysteries.
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English (205)  Dutch (6)  Danish (4)  French (4)  Swedish (4)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (232)
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
Before my first trip to Japan, I could not recall a Japanese author I had read, so I looked up some recommendations and settled on the novel The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Wnd Up Bird Chronicle The basic plot is about a man who goes searching for a lost cat, but discovers a lot about his marriage and his life in the process. It is a bit of a mystery story that has a dark and quirky David Lynch Ê la Twin Peaks feel to it. There are many cultural-related details that come out in the novel that I can match to things I noticed on my trip to Japan: There is the preoccupation with and day‰Ûªs highlight of food (though the protagonist surprisingly eats a lot of potato salad), a fastidiousness with cleanliness and dress, reverence for apology, the importance of gardens and self-reflection and also the perseverance in being. I also really enjoyed the author‰Ûªs obvious affection for jazz and cats, which my experience and observations there lead me to believe many Japanese people share.

Some people would say that the protagonist is very passive ‰ÛÒ he quits his job and people and events happen to him. Two of the only intentional things he does are to go into a dry well to try to visit a kind of parallel reality and visit a train station to watch people. But inside he is on that universal search for understanding, and I found the book very engaging, though a little long. I think the English translation combines three of his novels into one and even cuts about 25,000 words. I ordered it on ebook, but I just looked it up and it seems to be about 600 pages in hard copy. Still I would very much recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese culture or those who enjoy magical realism and novels about self-discovery. ( )
  JeaniaK | Dec 13, 2014 |
Toru Okada has quit his job and isn’t sure what to do next. His wife Kumiko assures him this isn’t a problem financially, and meanwhile he can be helpful at home while she works; she instructs him to search for their lost cat in the alley behind their house, and alerts him to expect a call from a psychic she has consulted about the situation. The alley connects to an abandoned property with a notorious reputation, where a “wind-up bird” with a distinctive sound is never seen. Across the alley he is observed by a teenage girl who is out of school recuperating from a motorcycle... accident? or maybe not... and offers a bit of macabre comic relief in her chitchat about her job with a wig manufacturer. The psychic’s sister is a “prostitute of the mind”, who was in body “defiled” by Kumiko’s brother, who is now a politician rising in prominence. Kumiko disappears, and informs Toru by letter that she has gone to her brother, which seems dubious as a voluntary action because she had married in part to extricate from her dysfunctional family. An old friend of the family, who had endorsed the marriage, dies and leaves a package that is delivered by a lieutenant who was stationed in Manchuria during WWII and tells a story about imprisonment in and escape from a dry well. Toru climbs into the dry well on the abandoned property, and enters a dream? magical? world that has real physical effects such as a mark that appears on his face. Toru also whiles away time at a train station, where he his noticed by a healer because her father, who was a veterinarian at a zoo in Manchuria during WWII, had an identical mark on his face. The healer’s son is a mute genius, whose computer system provides a more mystical than technical route to communication with Kumiko.

So maybe I lack the cultural context to notice references. Or maybe the story doesn’t make sense. There is a hefty component of meaningful? gratuitous? weirdness. If it’s meaningful, I don’t get it. If it’s gratuitous, I don’t like it. At one point Toru wonders why all these connections are swirling around with WWII at the center, and I thought ah, this will be clarified eventually, but alas no, at least not that I could discern. 600 pages and I guess the thing is to enjoy the journey, but I didn’t especially. Or rather, I was quite drawn in to paragraphs and pages and chapters at a stretch because of the meticulous descriptions, but the pieces didn’t hang together. I don’t need “reality”, but I do need coherence.

Also, a warning: I typically skip over graphic violence, but the matter-of-fact tone didn’t sufficiently mark the entry into horror so I kept going, and felt obligated to stick with a few disturbing and nauseating scenes of torture. After the first such episode, when I reached the start of a war chapter at night, I set the book aside until morning so my memory would be eroded by distractions during the day.
  qebo | Nov 22, 2014 |
Haruki Murakami is one of those authors whose books I adore even though they are sometimes very uncomfortable to read. He populates his worlds withs with broken, perverted, evil, awful people. In the case of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a missing cat begins a plot that's a mix between The Graduate and the the legend of Orpheus and Persephone.

Or maybe instead of Orpheus, I should say, "The Thieving Magpie" as that is the piece of classical music that Murakami uses to set the tone of the book. If you're not familiar with Rossini's piece, take a moment to look it up; you've actually heard it if you've watched cartoons from the first half of the 20th century. Disney and Warner Bros. both used it a number of shorts.

But in all seriousness, when a character in a Murakami book or story mentions a classical piece of music, if you're not immediately familiar with it, put the book aside and listen to the music. Classical music is a huge part of Murakami's world and character building.

OK — now that we're back on track, the book opens with Toru Okada, a house husband, boiling up spaghetti and wondering if he should go look for his missing cat. Before he can finish making his lunch or make up his mind, he gets a strange phone call from a woman calling herself Malta.

Malta brings up rule #2 of reading a Murakami book: strange phone calls are harbingers of change and trouble. Malta's conversation — in fact most of Toru's early relationship with her, brings to mind the first half of Adam Sandler's Punch Drunk Love.

Although Malta is a prostitute, she isn't trying to extort money out of Toru. No Murakami character is that obvious or single minded. Instead, she and her sister, are the spirit guides for Toru. She tells him that he will never find the missing cat until things are sorted with his wife.

As with 1Q84, choices made by the main characters result in a split between worlds and a journey between them. Here, though, the route is through the underworld (both literally and figuratively). Toru must travel through both versions to rescue his wife and find their cat.

I have the newest translated Murakami on my reading list. I plan to get to it within weeks, rather than years because I know it won't disappoint. ( )
  pussreboots | Nov 17, 2014 |
In keeping with my 2014 plans, my review with be forthcoming. This because in the past I often just improvise the review on the spot. I will actually write them from now on, unless the book sucks. This book is terrific. Content yourself with this knowledge alone for now, dear reader. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
In keeping with my 2014 plans, my review with be forthcoming. This because in the past I often just improvise the review on the spot. I will actually write them from now on, unless the book sucks. This book is terrific. Content yourself with this knowledge alone for now, dear reader. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
By the book's midway point, the novelist-juggler has tossed so many balls into the air that he inevitably misses a few on the way down. Visionary artists aren't always neat: who reads Kafka for his tight construction? In ''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' Murakami has written a bold and generous book, and one that would have lost a great deal by being tidied up.
 
Mr. Murakami seems to have tried to write a book with the esthetic heft and vision of, say, Don DeLillo's ''Underworld'' or Salman Rushdie's ''The Moor's Last Sigh,'' he is only intermittently successful. ''Wind-Up Bird'' has some powerful scenes of antic comedy and some shattering scenes of historical power, but such moments do not add up to a satisfying, fully fashioned novel. In trying to depict a fragmented, chaotic and ultimately unknowable world, Mr. Murakami has written a fragmentary and chaotic book.
 

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haruki Murakamiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haughton, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rubin, JayTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to and FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.
Quotations
He normally stayed shut up in the small office he had there, but every now and then he would leave the door ajar, and I was able to observe him at work--not without a certain guilty sense of invading someone’s privacy. He and his computer seemed to be moving together in an almost erotic union. After a burst of strokes on the keyboard, he would gaze at the screen, his mouth twisted in apparent dissatisfaction or curled with the suggestion of a smile. Sometimes he seemed deep in thought as he touched one key, then another, then another; and sometimes he ran his fingers over the keys with all the energy of a pianist playing a Liszt etude. As he engaged in silent conversation with his machine, he seemed to be peering through the screen of his monitor into another world, with which he shared a special intimacy. I couldn’t help but feel that reality resided for him not so much in the earthly world but in his subterranean labyrinth.
. . . a person's destiny is something you look back at after it's past, not something you see in advance.
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Please do not combine with Volume 1 or 2 of the 2-volume edition.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679775439, Paperback)

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.

Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight. --Simon Leake

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Having quit his job, Toru Okada is enjoying a pleasant stint as a "house husband", listening to music and arranging the dry cleaning and doing the cooking - until his cat goes missing, his wife becomes distant and begins acting strangely, and he starts meeting enigmatic people with fantastic life stories. They involve him in a world of psychics, shared dreams, out-of-body experiences, and shaman-like powers, and tell him stories from Japan's war in Manchuria, about espionage on the border with Mongolia, the battle of Nomonhan, the killing of the animals in Hsin-ching's zoo, and the fate of Japanese prisoners-of-war in the Soviet camps in Siberia.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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