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Almost Transparent Blue Paperback – April 11, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Paperback, April 11, 2003
$45.00 $21.42

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Editorial Reviews


"A Japanese mix of A Clockwork Orange and L'Etranger."—Newsweek

"Bugs and mucus, cheesecake and semen, rain and runways—all lovingly described."
Washington Post

"Highly recommended for readers of the bizarre."—Antioch Review

"A violent book—sharply begun and slammed quickly to a finish."—Bestsellers

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; First Thus edition (April 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770029047
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770029041
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.5 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's 1976, and a group of Japanese teenagers living near an American airforce base indulge their appetites for drugs, alcohol and bi-curious group sex. Like most sensual quests for liberation and vision, these only lead to the annihilation of consciousness and a confusing desire to escape back into bourgeois life. Getting high is one thing. Connecting with reality is something else. In 126 pages of orgiastic indulgence, drug-induced catatonia and suicide attempts, there are three moments of transcendence in which Murakami's case is made: the memory of a beautiful piece of music; the experience of almost being killed by an aircraft taking off; and the narrator's climactic desire to communicate a personal vision of the world, himself and their possible unity. Murakami's call for connection and creativity in the face of mortality and post-war nihilism is a familiar one in twentieth-century literature, but the way he goes about it is refreshing. Firmly realist in his approach, Murakami stays on the surface. Sticking with the physical details he refuses to burrow into the minds of most of these youths where he might have interpreted or psychoanalyzed their inner lives for us. Ironically, this works. Their own halting attempts at self-expression are so much more poignant, and so much more credible for being vague and incomplete. If the bulk of this narrative strikes you as tedious, pointless, repetitive and occasionally appalling, then Murakami has succeeded in capturing the reality of a life devoted to escapism. It's only in such a context that the moments of incipient self-awareness and transcendence can have such a powerful resonance for these characters, and for the reader.
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Format: Paperback
When Almost Transparent Blue came out in the late seventies, it was an important piece of literature and an important milestone in Japanese fiction. Almost Transparent Blue is not simply about drugs and sex; in fact the chilling but fascinating aspect of Murakami's writing style is how remarkably detached his protagonist is from the actions that he and the people around him are doing. This is a significant change from Coin Locker Babies, a book with similar themes, but much more proactive and passionate characters. This rift between what is real and surreal becomes more in focus as the story continues, and the book reaches its climax when the protagonist, in a self-induced semi-hallucinogenic state, realizes that the reality that exists in the surreal world (primary, the Bird's world) is much more real and urgent than the drugs and sex in the "real" world around him.
While this book is still relevant today, as there is still an unnamable but nevertheless constant pressure on the youth of Japan (and around the world), the context it exists in has changed quite a bit. Ryu's world is not quite the world of today, and ATB is beginning to show its age. Nevertheless, Almost Transparent Blue is a very enjoyable book, and by the end it becomes clear that it is a much deeper and mature book than first meets the eye.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book won the Akutagawa Award, changed modern Japanese literature, and is a favorite of Japanese college students (...or so I hear). This book makes Requiem for a Dream look like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Seriously some of the descriptions get pretty intense, but nonetheless retain some sort of elegance. Murakami puts graphic scenes of sex and drug use next to scenes of quiet reflection (watching rain, childhood memories) to create a sense of youthful hopelessness. However, taken in the proper context, this book will leave you uplifted rather than depressed. One of my favorites.
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Format: Paperback
John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat." Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" William S. Burroughs's "Junky." The semi-autobiographical novel of disaffected youth and their abusive love-affairs with drink, drugs and sex is certainly not without literary precedence. Over the years, it has become a genre, one which shocks people with its honestly, and lures with its romanticism of the life of a fringe wastrel, who looks no further than the next drink or fix, living life in pursuit of pleasure.

Joining their ranks is "Almost Transparent Blue," the debut novel by Japanese virtuoso Ryu Murakami. This first novel, written while still in collage, won the prestigious Akutagawa award and skyrocketed Murakami to fame and financial independence. Telling the semi-connected tales of young junkies Ryu, Kazuo, Yoshiyama, Moko, Reiko, and Kei, the book is a decent into the underbelly of 1970's Japan, fresh with Jimmy Hendrix music, exotic black men from the local military base, and the numbness of emotion that comes from living in a drug-haze.

Like his predecessors, Murakami has detailed the life of the Bohemian as an attractive and repulsive existence. Attractive, due to the seductiveness of a life lived for base pleasure, animalistic sex and a constant supply of drugs. Repulsive, in the vomit and blood and pain that of necessity accompanies such a lifestyle. You wonder which characters will escape, which ones will die, and how much of this did Murakami experience first hand. He never makes it quite clear, naming the lead character "Ryu" after himself, and leaving the reality of the elusive "Lily" up in the air with the last paragraph.

Very much a product of its time, both the music and the stereotypical "otherness" of the black people are striking time stamps.
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