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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 607 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679775439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679775430
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (512 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Amazingly long, incredibly pricey, wildly experimental, often confusing but never boring, Murakami's most famous novel has been brought to audio life with extreme dedication: by Naxos, a company that regularly wins prizes, and by a reader with an uncommon combination of skills. Degas is already a Murakami veteran, having read the audio version of A Wild Sheep Chase (Naxos), and has worked on radio, stage and even cartoon voice (including Mr. Bean). He catches the constantly changing mental landscape of Murakami's fertile imagination—which moves from detective story to explicit sexual fantasy, heartbreaking Japanese WWII historical flashback, everyday details of married life (cooking, shopping and pet care) and even the occasional burst of satiric humor. Degas treats it all with the clarity and calmness of a very deep, very still pool. Certainly not for everyone's taste or budget, but anyone interested in this important author will find something to enlighten them. Available as a Vintage paperback (Reviews, Aug. 18. 1997). (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Haruki Murakami writes an excellent book.
M. Packham
Most novels are carefully plotted out and the reader simply tags along with the author's characters as the story unfolds.
W. Clement
I simply wanted to read the book until its finish.
Louis Reville

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

672 of 697 people found the following review helpful By Roman Melnik on May 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Many of the previous reviews do a great job of discussing this novel, and I will not repeat that discussion here.

But what the previous reviews do not mention is that the American publishers, Knopf, forced Murakami and his translator, Jay Rubin, to significantly abridge the original Japanese text. The casual reader would have no way of knowing this, and, indeed, I only noticed because I was reading alternating chapters of the book in English and Russian translations. Half-way through the novel, entire chapters suddenly started disappearing from the English-language text. Puzzled, I went back to the copyright page of the English-language edition, where, for the first time, I noticed the cryptic notation that the book was not only translated but also "adapted from the Japanese."

How much of the original text was "adapted" away? I don't read Japanese, but, based on a comparison with my Russian-language translation, which appears to be complete (no Russian publisher would commit such a travesty on an award-winning novel), it seems that something like 15-20% of the text has been cut. For those of you who find the English-language text of the "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" choppy, or puzzling, or seemingly incomplete, at least some of the blame lies at the feet of the American publishers who decided, unilaterally, that American readers cannot handle a long book.

Anyway, the upshot is that if you can comfortably do so, try to read the "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" in a non-English translation. Or, if you can't, demand that Jay Rubin's original and complete English-language translation be published.
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211 of 233 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Salfen on September 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Another reviewer has mentioned that far from being a scattered collection of independent incidents strung together by the coincidence of the central character's involvement, Murakami's "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" is unified by means of its insistence on the problem of evil and what to do about it. Surely this is moving towards a clear understanding of the novel.

Evil, though, is a such a culturally grounded concept. Is evil sin? Maybe in monotheistic cultures, but I think in Murakami's novelistic universe--and this is a recurring feature of many discussions of Japanese religion, culture, and art--a more insightful way of comprehending evil is as "defilement," and this is the term Jay Rubin uses in his translation time and again. Defilement is what ties every character together: some inner filth that each character is trying to purge in some way. May Kasahara's idea of the physical manifestation of death as an oozy gray thing is the clearest picture we have of that unrelenting ghost that haunts everyone intersecting with Toru Okada's life. It is not regret or guilt. It is not emotional scarring. It is a sickening tangible object poisoning a person's life and threatening to overwhelm it. It must be washed off, or it will destroy whatever it comes in contact with.

Because defilement is such a defining feature of the work, it functions to create two broad sets of characters: the defilers and the defiled, where Kumiko's brother (Noboru Wataya) is the archetype of the defiler and Kumiko herself the archetype of the defiled.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on July 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I should say that half way through The Wind-Up Bird, I read over some reviews to get a feel for what other people think. Unfortunately, many were intent on giving the story away. Quite simply, it is best not to know the story line in advance. This is not a book one could possibly rationalize and understand without having first experienced it. More to the point, such analysis will only detract from the experience of reading the book in the first place.
Encountering The Wind-Up-Bird Chronicle is like encountering a delicate origami crane for the first time. From the very beginning, you wonder how it got in that shape. You wish to know the secret of its structure. To do so, you must work at it slowly and carefully, undoing each fold with the utmost care and caution in order to discover the pain-staking sequence that led to its beautifully complex and elegant shape. Reading The Wind-Up-Bird is like unfolding a bigger, more-complex crane -- so complex in fact that you might be confused when the entire thing is laid out in front of you, creases spanning the entire page. If you are like me, you might spend weeks or months trying to figure out how to put that crane back together.
Without giving too much away, allow me to share some of the things that engaged and enwrapped me:
* The possibility that every experience in our life contains deep and profound philosophical meaning.
* Discovering the mysterious nature of life and the vagaries of chance fate; realizing that the place we inhabit and the family we are born into are givens that guide us, not things we can ultimately choose.
* Questioning the extent to which we can fully understand other people -- from the man why walks by us in the street to the significant other who sleeps on the other side of our bed.
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