Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

10 November, 2011

So, the mega best-selling 1Q84 is being published as I write this and what better way to celebrate all things Murakami than by going back to read his first novel. More a novella at only 128 pages in the small Japanese paperback published by Kodansha International, Hear the Wind Sing is an easy reading book and holds many of the themes which Murakami returns time and again in his more famous novels, in particular Norwegian Wood.

The un-named narrator is on a Summer break from university and has returned to his home town from Tokyo where he hangs out in J’s Bar and befriends another student called Rat. The novel is essentially a slow summer’s tale, something which reminded me of my own summer holidays as a student where time slows down and it’s hot and lazy and Murakami captures this period that is lost once you become a working adult. We find out about what the narrator likes to read, how he is coming to grips with the world he lives in, his past three loves whose memories are slowing evaporating and his friendships with Rat, who is at a cross-roads in his life and waxes lyrical while drinking at J’s Bar, and a four-fingered girl who works at a record shop and who is recovering from some kind of trauma.

Many have said this isn’t Murakami’s best (it is his debut, after all) and that Murakami is reluctant to have it published outside Japan (the Kodansha International edition is primarily for Japanese students learning English), yet I liked this book. There is something about an author’s hype where you feel that you ought to like their writing even though you don’t. I get a fleeting sense of trepidation every time I start a book by Murakami, but I am always overwhelmed by a feeling of familiarity and how much I am enjoying the experience of reading the book as I turn the pages.

It’s a skeletal version of the themes important to Murakami, as though he is putting out feelers, not yet ready to fully discuss what it is to be alive and to belong. The themes of alienation, dissociation, making your own way into the world and leaving your home behind are all there. But it’s not as harsh and stark as in his later books. There aren’t any fantastical elements here, but I’m a fan of his more realistic novels and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Pinball 1973.

Alfred Birnbaum’s translation was easy to read and pretty good and there was nothing that particularly jarred.

I read this as part of the Japanese Literature Challenge 5 and the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011.

4 Responses to “Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami”

  1. Mystica Says:

    Lots of his books available including the latest one on order here in Melbourne, but not this one!

  2. winstonsdad Says:

    I like this when I read it and found iut more readable than some others have made out ,I m holding off on iq84 for time being ,all the best stu

  3. Besides 1Q84, I have only read After Dark and a bit of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, which made me into a Murakami fan. These earlier books would be good to read to see how his novels progress.

  4. sakura Says:

    Mystica: This title is also quite difficult to find in the UK. Lucky for me I have friends in Japan!

    winstonsdad: Good luck with 1Q84. I’m having problems lugging it around so need a holiday to read it!

    Harvee: Especially if you read Norwegian Wood. You can see echoes of what will become Norwegian Wood in his early work.

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