Van has finished reading…Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

7 Dec

Okay, so this isn’t what I’d normally do but I think Murakami’s reputation can withstand it. The truth is I’ve found it difficult to get something down for this review. Sorry, Haruki, didn’t quite seem sufficient and I’ve found myself in a place where I’m trying to justify my lack of engagement. It’s a problem I’ve had before when faced with isolated characters like Watanabe and Naoko, a situation where I find myself resistant to their ways. I become that insensitive person who just wants to shake them, that intolerable idiot who wants to tell them to get out and do something, that things aren’t nearly as bad as they think. That they’ll look back on all this and laugh someday about how serious they used to be, if only they could get over it (although he doesn’t, does he). Look how erudite Watanabe is, look how easy-going, a young man who can find a conversation with a voiceless old man in a hospital, who can bring the joy of eating cucumbers to a sad hospital bedside.

It’s not the writing. The writing’s focused, tidy. It’s not the supporting cast either. Midori and Reiko are there to be rooted for, bringing all the freshness and optimism you need. Can it really all be down to Watanabe? It’s not as if the warning signs aren’t there in the books he reads (I can’t help thinking he’d have had a more favourable trajectory if he’d picked up Steppenwolf instead of Beneath The Wheel).

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps it’s a little too close, or a little too what-might-have-been. Whatever the echoes, they’re echoes I don’t want to hear. Sorry, Haruki.


Norwegian Wood (translated by Jay Rubin) was published in the UK in 2000 by Harvill. My copy was published by Vintage ISBN:9780099490784

You can find Haruki on Twitter @harukimurakami_


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