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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 1998
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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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Murakami is my favorite author. This is one of his best.Engaging plot could not put this book dowmPublished 2 days ago by Michael usher
A complex novel with many twists and turns. There are developed fantasy elements and a few threads of story lines which had been developed in the earlier part of the book but which... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Tkd*cat
I generally like weird books but this was just too boring. I could barely make it 75 pages in and couldn't focus on it anymore. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Katie
Such a fascinating read. The style, plot, nonlinear narrative- it's all trademark Murakami, and it's fantasticPublished 10 days ago by Shayna M. Weddle
Your gonna love this author. Lots more books available. Go for it.Published 16 days ago by Captain Pearl
I enjoyed most of the book, but the author strayed too often with old war stories which I think just made the book too long.Published 17 days ago by Patricia
The story is deep and layer and fabulous. So much better than all the coming g of age nonsense published in NY these days with their corrupt agendas!Published 20 days ago by Geraldine Lacombe