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Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sputnik Sweetheart (1999)

by Haruki Murakami

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Murakami's depiction of loneliness and meloncholy is as poignant as it is beautiful. Still doesn't measure up to Norwegian Wood though. That book has probably spoiled me for life. ( )
  Crontab_e | Sep 19, 2017 |
If I hadn't read Murakami before, I might have really loved this book, but having already encountered (and enjoyed!) so many other of his books with similar plots, characters, themes, and motifs, I wasn't as awed with this one as I normally am with his work. As always though, the writing is beautiful ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
... aw. Sputnik Sweetheart.

This book makes me sad just thinking about it.

I'm not sure I can review something that I had such a strong reaction to, but I'll give it my best shot.

Firstly, can I just say, that I admire Haruki Murakami so much for writing a story about two characters who are attracted to the same sex, and writing it so well. Same-sex attraction is often fetishised in Japanese culture, and there's a lot subversive homophobia that churns beneath the surface, so, thank you, Murakami, as always, for the work that you do.

I really enjoyed this book, although it took a while for me to get used to the narrative style. It was a little different from Murakami's other works, and I didn't think I would like it as much, because his narrative voice wasn't the one I was used to reading.

This book has a little bit of everything, dream sequences, angst, horror(?), beach scenes, the dreaded concept of work-life balance, a narrator on the outside looking inwards, desperate love and the slightly-unresolved last few chapters of a classic Murakami novel.

I wouldn't say this book is a favourite of his, but he is one of my favourite authors, and I really couldn't choose a favourite anyway. c: ( )
  lydia1879 | Aug 31, 2016 |
Six-word review: Typically puzzling yet rewarding Murakami story.

Extended review:

There's something about the novels of Haruki Murakami: I read them, I enjoy them (or don't: that would be Norwegian Wood), I'm moderately mystified by them--and then, a little while later, I find that I can't remember what happened. I remember that there was something about cats, or moons, or train stations, or wells--a lot of wells--but the story and the characters have diffused into a kind of dreamlike otherworldly vapor.

They seem to want to be classed as existentialist novels, and yet when I think of them in comparison with Camus, I find them far more elusive and less concrete.

I know I liked Sputnik Sweetheart. I even wrote this in my notebook as soon as I finished it: "I found this more coherent than any of the other five Murakami novels I've read." I also harvested a lot of good quotations, from which the following selection comes:

• "[I]f I can be allowed a mediocre generalization, don't pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world? Remove everything pointless from an imperfect life, and it loses even its imperfection." (page 4)

• "I felt like I was a meaningless bug clinging for no special reason to a high stone wall on a windy night, with no plans, no beliefs." (page 77)

• Sumire: "On the flip side of everything we think we absolutely have pegged lurks an equal amount of the unknown. Understanding is but the sum of our misunderstandings." (page 134; bold in original)

• Sumire: "Only a handful of writers--and I'm talking the most talented--are able to pull off the kind of irrational synthesis you find in dreams." (page 137-138; this is followed in the narrative by a dream sequence)

• In my notebook I labeled this "statement of theme": "So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that's stolen from us--that's snatched right out of our hands--even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence."

I guess I'll take my word for it. ( )
1 vote Meredy | Aug 17, 2016 |
"Sputnik" is popularly known as the first manmade satellite sent up for a few orbits by the USSR back in 1957. The word in Russian means "fellow-traveler" or "traveling companion."

"Sputnik Sweetheart" is my first experience with Haruki Murakami and, while his writing style is remarkable -- credit to the translator, too -- it's difficult to connect to his characters. Perhaps disconnectedness is part of the motif he was going for because it did have a somewhat ethereal feel to it.

The story is namely about Sumire and slightly older woman, Miu, with whom she's desperately in love. Narrated by K, a college friend of Sumire's, who has a deep friendship with her and an unrequited love of her. The book falls loosely into the "magical realism" category and is equal parts love story and mystery.

Sumire disappears on a brief holiday with Miu. In K's search for clues over her disappearance, we find that at some point in the past, Miu became two separate people, one filled with passion and life and the other a more hollow shell, searching for missing pieces. Murakami describes well the feelings of loss when someone disappears from or leaves us as well as the disconnected feeling when we might lose a part of ourselves, that sense of longing.

Murakami's work is thought-provoking and stylistically a very good read. The storyline itself is wandering and does leave the reader hanging, so to some it may be a bit unsatisfying. ( )
  traumleben | Jun 11, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Murakami, Harukiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gabriel, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gräfe, UrsulaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malinen, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first man-made satellite, Sputnik I, from the Baikanor Space Center in the Republic of Kazahkstan. Sputnik was 58 centimeters in diameter, weighed 83.6 kilograms, and orbitted the earth in 96 minutes and 12 seconds.
  On November 3 of the same year , Sputnik II was successfully launched, with the dog Laika aboard. Laika became the first living being to leave the earth's atmosphere, but the satellite was never recovered, and Laika ended up sacrificed for the sake of biological research in space.

-From The Complete Chronicle of World History
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In the spring of her twenty-second year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life.
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Però, se mi è concessa un'osservazione banale, in questa vita imperfetta abbiamo bisogno anche di una certa quantità di cose inutili. Se tutte le cose inutili sparissero, sarebbe la fine anche di questa nostra imperfetta esistenza.
… quando la luna se ne sta sconsolata nel suo angolino a oriente come un vecchio rene sciupato.
Era una di quelle piogge quiete ma incessanti che in primavera oscurano e impregnano di umidità la terra, risvegliando dolcemente gli istinti delle infinite creature senza nome che la popolano.
«Ogni ragionamento o teoria che spiega tutto in modo troppo esauriente, nasconde una trappola. … se c'è qualcosa che può essere spiegato con un solo libro, forse non merita spiegazione. Insomma, quello che voglio dire è che è meglio non affrettarsi a tirare troppo presto conclusioni».
Cominciai a non abboccare più a tutte le cose che mi dicevano. L'unico spazio nel quale esprimevo un entusiasmo incondizionato era quello dei libri e della musica. E così, come forse era inevitabile, ho finito col diventare una persona piuttosto solitaria.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375726055, Paperback)

Sputnik Sweetheart finds Haruki Murakami in his minimalist mode. Shorter than the sweeping Wind-up Bird Chronicle, less playfully bizarre than A Wild Sheep Chase, the author's seventh novel distills his signature themes into a powerful story about the loneliness of the human condition. "There was nothing solid we could depend on," the reader is told. "We were nearly boundless zeros, just pitiful little beings swept from one kind of oblivion to another."

The narrator is a teacher whose only close friend is Sumire, an aspiring young novelist with chronic writer's block. Sumire is suddenly smitten with a sophisticated businesswoman and accompanies her love object to Europe where, on a tiny Greek island, she disappears "like smoke." The schoolteacher hastens to the island in search of his friend. And there he discovers two documents on her computer, one of which reveals a chilling secret about Sumire's lover.

Sputnik Sweetheart is a melancholy love story, and its deceptively simple prose is saturated with sadness. Characters struggle to connect with one another but never quite succeed. Like the satellite of the title they are essentially alone. And by toning down the pyrotechnics of his earlier work, Murakami has created a world that is simultaneously mundane and disturbing--where doppelgängers and vanishing cats produce a pervasive atmosphere of alienation, and identity itself seems like a terribly fragile thing. --Simon Leake

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:35 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The scenario is as simple as it is uncomfortable: a college student falls in love (once and for all, despite everything that transpires afterward) with a classmate whose devotion to Kerouac and an untidy writerly life precludes any personal commitments--until she meets a considerably older and far more sophisticated businesswoman. It is through this wormhole that she enters Murakami's surreal yet humane universe, to which she serves as guide both for us and for her frustrated suitor, now a teacher. In the course of her travels from parochial Japan through Europe and ultimately to an island off the coast of Greece, she disappears without a trace, leaving only lineaments of her fate: computer accounts of bizarre events and stories within stories. The teacher, summoned to assist in the search for her, experiences his own ominous, haunting visions, which lead him nowhere but home to Japan--and there, under the expanse of deep space and the still-orbiting Sputnik, he finally achieves a true understanding of his beloved.… (more)

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