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Discussion Starter #1
I know Jun Lei likes to read his books. I bought The Wind-up Bird Chronicles after several people recommanded it to me. It was only translated in Dutch in 2003 and I don't really know what to expect.

I know several others have read something of Haruki Murakami, so why not make a thread out of it, just to thiscuss his books;
 

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Thank you, Geert :kiss: This is very kind of you.

I finished Dance Dance Dance yesterday and I liked it. Very quirky and intriguing, a lot more light-hearted than Norwegian Wood, but still very Murakami. :D

I don't have The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, but let me know how you like it. Keep an open mind when reading. :)
 

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nina said:
And how is that?
I don't know. Offbeat? Quirky? How does one explain style? It's something you can identify with if you've read a bit more of his works.

Norwegian Wood was hauntingly beautiful.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Jun-Lei said:
I don't have The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, but let me know how you like it. Keep an open mind when reading. :)
One of the best books I've ever read, but i'll elaborate on it later :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles

As a start I must admit that in general, I'm not too fond of Asian litterature. The methaphysical aspect and the vagueness (to me) often make me turn away (Gao Xingjian/Soul Mountain). However some young authors as Banana Yoshimoto (Kitchen) proofed me wrong. I am aware though that my cultural background probably makes that such books speak more to me as someone who's used to reading "Western" books.

Therefore I didn't really know whatto expect from Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. It turned out to be a combination of both styles. This results into a story with a story and athmosphere that reminded me the most at David Lynch's movies Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Nothing is what it seems and beyond every surface lie deeper grounds.
 

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Do I take it that you enjoyed The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Geert? :)

I have not read Gao Xingjian's works, primarily because I don't like reading Chinese works in the translated English when I can read them in the original Chinese, but also because his works have not interested me so far. But I do agree that certain Asian authors tend to build a lot of cultural history into their works, such that the reader may be lost or feel unable to connect with the story if he/she does not possess a certain degree of understanding of the underlying cultural themes.

Murakami's works have distinctively Japanese background, yet are more accessible because of the way he deals with the subject matter. One is not made to feel confused despite the fact that one is not intimately acquainted with the Japanese culture. Instead, the reader embarks on a journey with the author in exploration, often gently nudging the reader into his own journey of self-exploration and reflection. Personally, I like it that his works are thought-provoking without being overly metaphysical or preachy. There is that sense of intrigue, wonder, amusement that makes reading (his works) enjoyable.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Jun-Lei said:
Do I take it that you enjoyed The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Geert? :)
Yes i did :)

Except for the strange athompshere of the book and the many unforgetable characters I very much appreciated the symbolism that Murakami puts in his books. Without wanting to analyse the book 'till it's ruined, I just want to say that it is almost unbelievable that Murakami, as he claims, starts to write without knowing where it will lead. And at the same time manages to create an amalgan of male and female characters that all together form on one hand a perfect methaphore of relations and on the other hand a methaphore for society and human behaviour in general.
 

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That's cool. :) I also finished The Wind-up Bird Chronicle sometime back and enjoyed it tremendously.

Which others have you not tried?
 

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Good news: Murakami's latest book, AFTER DARK, which was published in Japan last year, is in the process of being translated into Chinese by the Taiwan author Li Ming-chu [who also translated 90% of Murakami's work].

Certainly good news for Junny, no? For English readers, well, that means another year of waiting. then again, KAFKA ON THE SHORE, Murakami's 2003 book has been translated into English and is currently on sale in the UK.

My choice of Murakami books:

1. Wind-up Bird Chronicle
2. Kafka on the Shore
3. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
4. Underground
5. A Distant Drumming (no English translations yet)
 

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Bonita said:
Good news: Murakami's latest book, AFTER DARK, which was published in Japan last year, is in the process of being translated into Chinese by the Taiwan author Li Ming-chu [who also translated 90% of Murakami's work].

Certainly good news for Junny, no? For English readers, well, that means another year of waiting. then again, KAFKA ON THE SHORE, Murakami's 2003 book has been translated into English and is currently on sale in the UK.
Good news yeah, since I can read Chinese. :dielaugh: But I can wait for After Dark to come out in English. :angel:

Kafka on the Shore is out in stores here, but only the hard cover version. I'll wait for the paperback version to be out. I have Neil Gaiman and Alex Garland to keep me company. :D



Bonita said:
My choice of Murakami books:

1. Wind-up Bird Chronicle
2. Kafka on the Shore
3. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
4. Underground
5. A Distant Drumming (no English translations yet)
Have not read A Distant Drumming and Underground.

My favourite of his collection would have to be Norwegian Wood. It's beautiful beyond description.



Andy Christ said:
Is Murakami a well-known writer in Europe? And what kind of books he writes? I've never heard any mention of him outside Xtratime.
Murakami is Japanese. His style is offbeat, quirky and introspective. A very unusual author who will make you reflect, on a lot of things about life.
 

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Junny, if Norwegian Wood is your favourite Murakami book, then you may wish to take a peek at A Distant Drumming (Tooi Taiko) which is written as a travelogue through Europe while he worked on NW. You can read about the book here. (Chinese, complex text.)

Norwegian Wood is a purist's novel. Impure as I am, I like his later works. I recalled reading an interview between Murakami and other fellow writers in which he was attacked for "betraying the public with the post-Norwegian Wood style." Murakami replied: "I can't help it. If you are a Beatles fan, you would understand why they have a Yesterday period and a White Album period."

Read A DISTANT DRUMMING, no regrets. :)
 

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Bonita said:
Junny, if Norwegian Wood is your favourite Murakami book, then you may wish to take a peek at A Distant Drumming (Tooi Taiko) which is written as a travelogue through Europe while he worked on NW. You can read about the book here. (Chinese, complex text.)
I don't like travelogues. :) But I will take a look.



Bonita said:
Norwegian Wood is a purist's novel.
Oh, excellent. I am a purist at heart.



Bonita said:
Impure as I am, I like his later works. I recalled reading an interview between Murakami and other fellow writers in which he was attacked for "betraying the public with the post-Norwegian Wood style." Murakami replied: "I can't help it. If you are a Beatles fan, you would understand why they have a Yesterday period and a White Album period."
I have nothing against Murakami's later works. In fact, I enjoyed them a lot, just ask Geert. But for mood and sensitivity, nothing can match Norwegian Wood.

:)
 

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Junny: just discover that you and I were exchanging messages about Norwegian Wood on Murakami's birthday (Jan. 12th). His ears must have been burning. :)

Kafka on the Shore and Wind-Up Bird Chronicles are still my favourites. That said, I feel for the unlucky authors who have to translate Murakami's work into English. Much like the Bill Murray character in the film Lost in Translation (all pun intended), Murakami's words are the antithesis of the rational English.

For your reference, here's New York Times' review on the English version of Kafka on the Shore.


BOOKS OF THE TIMES
KAFKA ON THE SHORE by HARUKI MURAKAMI

Adrift in a Universe in Flux Like Some Big FedEx Box

By JANET MASLIN

Published: January 31, 2005 - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

One of the characters in Haruki Murakami's trippy new dreamscape tries to explain himself as follows: He doesn't have a name or shape. He has decided to materialize as Colonel Sanders but could just as easily have been Mickey Mouse. He isn't beyond good and evil, but they don't matter to him. He's "not much of a detail person." But he serves as a metaphysical overseer, checking the correlations between worlds and making sure that past, present and future occur in the right order. That way, causes and effects don't get mixed up. "Listen, every object's in flux," he explains. "The Earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil - they're all fluid and in transition. They don't stay in one form or one place forever. The whole universe is like some big FedEx box."

Is it any wonder that advertisements for "Kafka on the Shore" take the unusual step of trying to explain what the fun is all about? In a passage that the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, calls "A Glimpse Inside the Novel," the prospective reader is warned that it rains fish in this book; that cats converse with human beings; that Mr. Murakami's tuning-fork reverberations reach out to entwine a 15-year-old runaway with a slow-witted old man.

It is also pointed out that Mr. Murakami writes "internationally cherished novels" and has a Web site (www.harukimurakami.com) leading into "his unique world." Translation: you need not fully know what he's doing to know that he's doing something right.

"Kafka on the Shore" is as layered and convoluted as "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" (1994), which is still the author's most drop-dead feat of pyrotechnics. But the new book is more ambitious in ways that render it more vague. "It's hard to explain" is an oft-repeated phrase in "Kafka on the Shore." And many of this novel's reveries have a laid-back, hallucinatory quality. "Somewhere I don't know about, something weird is happening to time," the title character explains. "Reality and dreams are all mixed up, like seawater and river water flowing together. I struggle to find the meaning behind it all, but nothing makes any sense."

Great moments in metaphysics do not hinge on such loosey-goosey locutions. But there are better things about "Kafka on the Shore" than its stabs at cosmic wisdom. A number of its characters, most notably Kafka Tamura, spend time at a library, where the grand design is metaphorical but the experience of reading is seductive and real. "I'm alone, inside the world of the story," says Kafka, while deep in "The Arabian Nights." This, he says, is "my favorite feeling in the world." For all its flightiness, "Kafka on the Shore" bestows that same gift.

However vague its allusions and overbearing its pretensions, however needlessly jive its English translation ("Jeez Louise"), this book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience. Even its typeface - Electra - carefully "attempts to give a feeling of fluidity, power and speed." And a couple of its characters, who love to debate the fine points of aesthetic experience, find in both Haydn's music and François Truffaut's films the quality that best describes Mr. Murakami: "A persistent, inward-moving spirit that's filled with a pliant, youthful sort of curiosity." The book's only conventional aspect is its uninspired cross-cutting format. This novel makes pendulum swings between the story of how Kafka runs away from home, and how good-hearted old Nakata, the cat whisperer, embarks on a peculiar quest. Kafka and Nakata are not acquainted, but their lives overlap in piquant, spooky ways. Each, for instance, has experienced a strange, sinister blackout and wonders about its consequences. When Nakata was a boy, he and a group of fellow students were on a mushroom-hunting expedition when they all passed out, for no apparent reason. The others awoke unharmed, but Nakata lost his higher intelligence and was transformed into a holy fool - the kind of guy not at all surprised to be smacked by sardines falling from the sky.

Writing about Kafka in the present tense and Nakata in the past, Mr. Murakami moves them around the chessboard of his novel's landscape. Kafka's mission is weirder, but also more traditional: he is fleeing an Oedipal prophecy from his father and seeking the mother who abandoned him many years earlier. A beautiful, elegant woman at the library, Miss Saeki, seems to exert a strange power over Kafka. And she appears to him as both a woman his mother's age and as a ghostly young girl.

"When they're still alive, people can become ghosts," Kafka observes about Miss Saeki. "I see the 15-year-old girl inside her. Like some small animal in hibernation, she's curled up in a hollow inside Miss Saeki, asleep."

"Kafka on the Shore" specializes in overlapping metaphors and symbols that may or may not have any true connection. So "Kafka on the Shore" is the name of both a song and a painting; whatever it is, this title is hugely fraught with memories. It is linked to Miss Saeki's one true love, who died when he was 20, in a tragedy that is intimate enough for a love affair but also large enough to signify senseless war. In any case, the lost young man left behind in his room what might as well be Pleistocene relics: records circa 1970 by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

In some way the spirit of the book is a throwback to that music, as it invites the reader to relax and dream and drift along with the flow of time. Water is everywhere: Mr. Murakami often invokes imagery of streams and spring rain, of a river that follows an unexpected path. "Kafka on the Shore" artfully sets such currents in motion. It's clear that they are powerful but less clear that they are deep.
 
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