Tag Archives: haruki murakami

REVIEW: NEVER LET ME GO

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this on my phone.

 

This book is quite remarkable. For more than half of it it gives off very few clues on what it’s all about, what these weird kids were doing cordoned off in a special school somewhere in a remote corner of an apparently alt-universe England. You go through their lives through Kathy’s -the protagonist’s- memories, which are incomplete, the possibility always hanging that her memory’s playing tricks on her. She says so herself. And if we don’t grow fond of the characters per se, it’s because there’s something terrible about them being left unsaid, politely ignored. It is something that makes people surrounding them, their “guardians” in that odd sub-space Hogwarts, cry when these children inadvertently show emotion and, say, sing and dance to Judy Bridgewater’s Never Let Me Go I’ve added above – a song that doesn’t strictly exist in our timeline, mind you. I’ll let you unfurl its story on your own.

The whole style of the book was reminiscent of Murakami. Is it a Japanese thing or is my mind playing tricks on me pigeonholing Ishiguro precisely on the basis that both authors are Japanese? But wait a second: more-or-less short and simple sentences, matter-of-fact, every-day situations, relationship- and memory-focused narrative… maybe it’s not just me.

Anyway. Once the secret of the book is revealed, just as matter-of-factly as anything else the characters might be talking about, the genius of Never Let Me Go is truly made clear; I can’t recall ever reading a story with less hand-holding on its central premise, such slow exposition and thus such complete suspension of disbelief. So I’m left here thinking that Its story is precisely what would happen if what’s true in the book was true in real life. And as a wanna-be writer of a similar kind of fiction, I can think of no praise more sincere.

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REVIEW: NORWEGIAN WOOD

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some memorable quotes from this book:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

“Letters are just pieces of paper,” I said. “Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay; keep them, and what vanishes will vanish.”

“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.”

Murakami was born in 1949. Like Terry Pratchett, who passed away some days ago. Like my father. What would it be like to have Terry Pratchett or Haruki Murakami as your dad?

The protagonist was also born in 1949 and serves as our 20-year-old guide through the Japan of way back when: most of Norwegian Wood takes places in Tokyo and Japan in ’69 and ’70. I see it as a mental documentary of what it was to live back then. Such indirect or direct accounts always excite me and nostalgically take me back to places I never saw, memories I never had. Manos Hatzidakis gives me a similar feeling (ASXETO!)

I don’t know what it is in his writing, but Murakami-san can take me on a trip. His descriptions make sense. I connect with them in a way I just cannot with the works of a lot of other writers. I’m there. I smell the grass in the lush Japanese mountains and the cars’ fumes in dirty, crowded Tokyo. I taste the sake and the whiskey. I’m a voyeur in the sex scenes that are funny in their straight-forward explicitness. I care for the various tragic, funny or awkward characters. It makes sense that I do: I’ve got to know them. I grow attached to these living, breathing people that could easily be followers of a contemporary variety of the Tao of Zen.

So it also makes sense that I’m sick of them dying for no clear reason to me. What I can safely say is that, no matter if death at one’s own hands is a cornerstone of Japanese culture or that the protagonist considers that “death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of it”, I much prefer reading what Murakami has to say about life and love than about suicide.

Thank you Daphne for lending me Norwegian Wood.

PS: There’s a lot of ’60s music in this book and many characters playing well-known pieces on guitars and pianos. Here’s a little playlist I found that would do nicely as a companion soundtrack:

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