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Sputnik Sweetheart: A Novel Paperback – April 9, 2002
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Sputnik Sweetheart finds Haruki Murakami in his minimalist mode. Shorter than the sweeping Wind-up Bird Chronicle, less playfully bizarre than A Wild Sheep Chase, the author's seventh novel distills his signature themes into a powerful story about the loneliness of the human condition. "There was nothing solid we could depend on," the reader is told. "We were nearly boundless zeros, just pitiful little beings swept from one kind of oblivion to another."
The narrator is a teacher whose only close friend is Sumire, an aspiring young novelist with chronic writer's block. Sumire is suddenly smitten with a sophisticated businesswoman and accompanies her love object to Europe where, on a tiny Greek island, she disappears "like smoke." The schoolteacher hastens to the island in search of his friend. And there he discovers two documents on her computer, one of which reveals a chilling secret about Sumire's lover.
Sputnik Sweetheart is a melancholy love story, and its deceptively simple prose is saturated with sadness. Characters struggle to connect with one another but never quite succeed. Like the satellite of the title they are essentially alone. And by toning down the pyrotechnics of his earlier work, Murakami has created a world that is simultaneously mundane and disturbing--where doppelgängers and vanishing cats produce a pervasive atmosphere of alienation, and identity itself seems like a terribly fragile thing. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Murakami's seventh novel to be translated into English is a short, enigmatic chronicle of unrequited desire involving three acquaintances the narrator, a 24-year-old Tokyo schoolteacher; his friend Sumire, an erratic, dreamy writer who idolizes Jack Kerouac; and Miu, a beautiful married businesswoman with a secret in her past so harrowing it has turned her hair snowy white. When Sumire abandons her writing for life as an assistant to Miu and later disappears while the two are vacationing on a Greek island, the narrator/teacher travels across the world to help find her. Once on the island, he discovers Sumire has written two stories: one explaining the extent of her longing for Miu; the second revealing the secret from Miu's past that bleached her hair and prevents her from getting close to anyone. All of the characters suffer from bouts of existential despair, and in the end, back in Tokyo, having lost both of his potential saviors and deciding to end a loveless affair with a student's mother, the narrator laments his loneliness. Though the story is almost stark in its simplicity more like Murakami's romantic Norwegian Wood than his surreal Wind-Up Bird Chronicles the careful intimacy of the protagonists' conversation and their tightly controlled passion for each other make this slim book worthwhile. Like a Zen koan, Murakami's tale of the search for human connection asks only questions, offers no answers and must be meditated upon to provide meaning. (Apr. 30)Forecast: Long the secret delight of connoisseurs, Murakami has been steadily and quietly acquiring a wider readership. His latest offering breaks no new ground but is packaged in a striking manner and should attract a few newcomers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I was glued to the pages almost immediately. Human loneliness was a big theme in the book and I feel like it really managed to capture that feeling that we all have in varying degrees. I'll admit I teared up once or twice.
The prose is his usual mix of matter-of-fact, poetic and surreal.
I highly recommend this book.
Sumire feels at odds with the world. Her only passion in life to date has been writing though she has had almost no success with it either. K, Sumire's former college classmate and only friend is her only real connection in the world. K has fallen in love with Sumire however the feeling isn't mutual as Sumire has never had that kind of desire for anyone that is until she meets Miu. Sumire takes a job with Miu that eventually leads them to a vacation on an island off the coast of Greece from which Sumire disappears. With no one else to turn to Miu contacts K and he heads off to help in the search...
"Sputnik Sweetheart" is my fifth Murakami experience. "Kafka on the Shore" is still my favorite but "Sputnik Sweetheart", is a good short read from Murakami and captures many of the elements and themes that are prevalent throughout Murakami's works.
The Good: Murakami's writing always draws me in. I always enjoy the characters, the story, the way as the reader you are privy to Japanese culture in small servings, and the always prevalent spiritual and metaphysical elements than run rampant in Murakami's stories. These elements allow him to take what would normally be a relatively simple plot and turn it into a story with depth.
The Bad: Nothing memorable.
Overall: If you are a fan of Murakami's other work you will probably enjoy Sputnik Sweetheart as well. If you haven't tried Murakami before this may not be a bad place to start because it is one of his shorter stories.
This is definitely one of the more accessible of the author's works, and I would recommend it for anyone starting to read Murakami.
Just take your time to savor the moments you get to spend with the characters. They'll leave you too soon.