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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki…

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (original 1997; edition 1997)

by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)

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12,289232206 (4.22)2 / 709
Title:The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Authors:Haruki Murakami
Other authors:Jay Rubin (Translator)
Info:KNOPF. (1997), Edition: Reprinted Edition, Paperback, 611 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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

  1. 102
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (derelicious)
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English (204)  Dutch (6)  Danish (4)  French (4)  Swedish (4)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (231)
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
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 |
Haruki Murakami is my best new author find of the year. His novel is gripping, profound, and original, with a style that is so readable. The plot is layered, it demands readers to draw their own conclusions, and the characters are amazing and complex. The story begins with a simple domestic scene. Toru Okada is cooking spaghetti, thinking about how he needs to look for his cat, when the phone rings. A strange woman asks him for ten minutes of his time, and insists that Okada knows her well, though he doesn't recognize her voice. When he declares he doesn't have ten minutes to spare, she makes an appointment to call him back. Okada shakes off his weird experience and decides to fulfill his wife's request to search for their missing cat at the abandoned house at the other end of the alley. Noboru Wataya - the cat - has been missing for days, and Okada's wife is unusually anxious about its absence. She specifically directed Okada to search the old Miyawaki house. Another odd thing in an odd day: Toru has never seen the cat in that area, and has no idea why his wife particularly wants him to search there.

The first couple of chapters set the tone for an unusual and compelling book. Toru Okada is an ordinary man, unnoticed by most. His life is simple and home-centered. When the novel begins, he is out of work, having quit his job in a law office because it just felt wrong. Yet into this completely average existence the strange and surreal is intruding, slowly at first, and then with insistence. The odd phone call. Kumiko's anxiety about the cat. The strange abandoned house. Then he begins meeting irregular characters, each with their own odd backgrounds that they slowly reveal to him. May Kasahara lives across the street from the abandoned house, and has several flirty but creepy interactions with Toru. Malta Kano is a spiritualist, hired by Okada's wife, to give him advice about the cat. However, she has a story to tell him about the healing power of water, and very few words about the cat. Toru inherits something from the old fortune teller he used to visit with Kumiko, and when he meets Lieutenant Mamiya, the man distributing the objects in Mr. Honda's will, he encounters more strange (and horrifying) stories. The stories and characters are disjointed at first, yet Murakami thoroughly convinced me that everything ultimately tied together, and as the novel progressed I saw more and more interconnection between the different layers of the story.

The wind-up bird is one way the author connects episodes which seem totally unrelated. Actually, the presence of birds in general, but the wind-up bird in particular, is a continual motif in the novel, as well as various encounters with water and darkness. Both common place items and those of a rarer nature (like the blue body mark that suddenly appears on Toru after coming out of a well) are imbued with significance. Sometimes, Murakami shares the meaning behind these objects, but for the most part, they reader needs to infer what the metaphors mean, and how they contribute to the story. I can see how this would be frustrating to some, but it delighted me. I don't even know how to explain it; the author manages to impress on the reader the feeling that there is significant spiritual and intellectual weight behind his themes, even when we are only catching a glimpse of that meaning. It made me want to dig in and figure things out, and it sustained the suspense of reading. I just had to keep going to find out what it was all going to mean. For instance, the odd wind-up bird. Only a few people hear it. These people seem privileged to understand the fate awaiting them or those near them - a bad fate. Whenever the wind-up bird is around, tragic events are soon to follow. Yet Toru overcomes his tragedy, to an extent. He can hear the bird, but he also identifies with birds at multiple points in the story. Rather than being just a witness to the bird's warnings, he somehow also embodies the wind-up bird; therefore, instead of being a passive victim of fate, he can confront his destiny and change events that others claim are immutable.

While these motifs saturate the story, the writing is easy to read, and the plot is simple to follow on a basic level of what is occurring. We watch Toru perform his daily routines - meet people and hear their stories, search for his wife - and his actions are easy to visualize, if not always easy to understand. It's like staring at a gorgeous painting, one that is captivating in its splendor and has a clear image, but also suggests extensive meaning that flashes out the longer one ponders.

As I wrote earlier, the emergence of the surreal begins slowly. We learn about the wind-up bird, the missing cat, and Toru's strained relations with his wife, but their existence appears to continue in its normal course. Nonetheless, these weird encounters color everything, and left me with a strong conviction that something strange and bad was certainly going to happen soon. The suspense builds masterfully up to the turning point in the novel: Kumiko, Toru's wife, disappears. Even this has a reasonable explanation after a few days of agony for Toru - according to Noboru Wataya, Kumiko's brother (and the namesake for the cat), Kumiko was having an affair and left him. A plausible turn of events. Yet Toru Okada does not believe his brother-in-law, and neither does the reader. At this point in the story, we know there is much more happening than what appears on the surface.

The action intensifies and the mystical elements are more prevalent and begin to show their connections to the plot. Toru moves from a passive receptacle of other people's stories to an active participant in his destiny. He knows that Noboru Wataya is a malignant entity, even if he can't explain it to others, and he knows that Kumiko has an issue far greater than an affair. Since Toru doesn't actually know what is happening, the actions he takes are based on intuition and advice from others. Although they seem unconnected to his problem at first, everything begins to fall together, Toru becomes more comfortable interacting with the spiritual, and the suspense builds as he tracks down the shadowy evil lurking at the center of his problems. The climactic scene is exciting and satisfying, and though the book's ending leaves many plot elements open to interpretation by the reader, it masterfully closes the book. From the first page to the last, this is an amazing novel written by an original and powerful author.

I was upset to learn that the English edition pared out around 25,000 words of the original text, as publishers felt the book would be too long when combined into one volume. Really? Why not publish the three books separately, or trust that people choosing a book of this complexity would appreciate a long novel? True, from what I read online the scenes omitted don't drastically alter the novel, but every piece in a work as considered as this one matters. My biggest regret with the novel is that I didn't get the complete picture as envisioned by the author.

Aside from this irritation (directed solely at the decisions of American editors) I was a thoroughly happy reader while I consumed the story. Not only was the writing clean and captivating, the characters were amazing, and the plot was a mesmerizing blend of straightforward and complicated labyrinth. I love immersing myself in books that have literary depths and resonance, even when they are more dense and difficult to read. I consider it a challenge. This book, however, had all the complexity but was so readable. I felt like I was reading a heavy tome with the ease of breezing through a fun novel. I am definitely reading more by this writer. ( )
  nmhale | Nov 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 204 (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.
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)

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