Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Wild Sheep Chase

by Haruki Murakami

This is my third Murakami book (after Kafka on the Shore and The Wind -Up Bird Chronicle) and I was certainly not disappointed. Apparently this is the third in the Trilogy of the Rat but I haven't read the first two (which are not readily available in English) and did not feel that I was missing anything while reading A Wild Sheep Chase. The un-named main character is drifting in his life, his wife leaves him, his business is ok but not very interesting, he describes his life as mediocre. Then he gets summoned by a mysterious businessman interested in a photo of sheep used in one of his brochures. He is tasked with finding the unusual sheep and sets off on an adventure. He meets interesting characters - a woman with the most beautiful ears, a sheep man, a sheep professor who never leaves his hotel room and it appears that his friend and business partner (the Rat) who had earlier disappeared is also on the trail of the same sheep.

This was the most straight forward Murakami that I have read (and also the earliest) and can easily be read as a simple detective story. But what I love most about Murakami is the beautiful writing and of course the wonderful characters. And if you feel like it, you can delve into the endless quest of "what is it trying to say" and "what does the sheep symbolize". What resonated most with me however was the narrator's nostalgic yearning to recapture something of his youth. His stay at the cabin in the mountains with nothing to do but read and cook or bake, perhaps go for a run made me nostalgic for my youthful stays at my parents cabin, with nothing to do but read, cook or go for a walk in the woods or a swim in the bay. No television, no dvd, no running somewhere on an errand or to pick up take-out. I miss that.

I understand that Dance, Dance, Dance is a sequel to this and I am looking forward to reading that as well. I am looking forward to lots more Murakami in my future, including a new release in English in the fall of 2011. Although I admit that when I find an author that I really enjoy like Murakami I am afraid to read all of his work too quickly for fear of running out of new books to experience. If anyone has any suggestions on which Murakami I should try next, let me know.

I note that In Spring It Is Dawn has started a Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011 which I immediately signed up for. This book completes my participation in Bellezza's wonderful Japanese Literature Challenge 4. Thanks for hosting another great Challenge Bellezza!


Cromely said...

Murakami writes some great stuff. I love his use of language.

If you want something a little more straight forward, check out Norwegian Wood. It's still somewhat mysterious but much more real world.

The beauty of the language always amazes me because it is one step removed -- I'm reading English translations. Do Murakami's words and images resonate as well in the original Japanese? How much of the magic depends on the translation?

I've got a few Murakami reviews among some of my others here:

Anonymous said...

I started out with a collection of short stories called "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman," from there I read my first proper Murakami novel, "Norwegian Wood," which is now being made into a film. I really enjoyed it, so I went on and read, Kafka On The Shore, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Sputnik Sweetheart, A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance and others...But "Norwegian Wood" really stuck with me, I can't to see the film version.

Nath said...

I am new in the Murakami world, I've just read A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance dance dance, South of the Border, West of the Sun and After Dark.

Since you've just finished reading A Wild Sheep Chase, you could try reading another novel, and then go back to Dance Dance Dance. It will give you the feeling that I think Murakami wants us to feel: when you start reading, you recall what happened, and gives you the feeling of familiarity. That's what happened to me, and it wasn't on purpose.

I have to admit Murakami writes in a "higher" way, to give it a name, and I've always thought it is not an easy reading, but I'm getting used to it, and I like it.

He gets you from one story to another, it makes your brain work, and things you don't understand at first, you get them later. It is wonderful the way he does it.

Anyway, I just wanted to give my opinion. :)


Zickler said...

Hey, your blog is featured on the Murakami page on facebook! Also, you should consider reading "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World." It was my introduction to his work, and it still blows my mind almost 20 years later.

NYD said...

There are plenty of Murakami books available in English. If you are interested in reading some of his short stories, which are pretty darned good, you might want to try The Elephant Vanishes.

Sachi no diary said...

I love murakami sensei's books too. They have some kind of mysterious story but really interesting to read. Like Kafka on the shore (my first book of murakami sensei), when I begin to read, I never have a time to stop reading before finish it. Like cromely already said before, His writing really beautiful. Now, I almost read all of his book. But somehow, I miss kafka onthe shore and begin to read that again from the first page.

IndyGo said...

I can get Pinball 1978 for you if you like

CHEVEMIX said...


Te recomiendo que leas "Al sur de la frontera al este del sol", para mí es la mejor novela de Murakami.

RitaSophie said...

Well, my friend, hope to be allowed to call you that, don't be afraid to run out of Murakami. You can always start reading him all over again. It's as new and surprising as for the first time! Don't ask yourself what to read next, whatever has his signature is worth! It's alive! It's surprising! Welcome to his world! Enjoy it!

Chinoiseries said...

I found this post through Fb, but hey! I see you're also participating in the Murakami challenge :) Good to find more fans out there! My favourite Murakami so far is still Norwegian Wood.

Ron said...

I'm from Holland, but living since more than 10 years in Italy. After reading "Kafka on the beach" (in Italian, the Italian translations are very good - better than the Dutch, I'm affraid) Murakami has become absolutely my favorit writer. As you mentioned, his characters and use of the language are already a reason to read him, often apart from the story.
Nice to be remembered (via FB) to "A wild sheep chase"; I think I will re-read it one of these days.

Frangipan said...

I love Murakami! But do you ever feel like you are losing something in translation? I always imagine that Murakami has a little more elegance than his translators. Anyway this is a great review, I thought A Wild Sheep Chase was mad but enjoyed every minute of it.
Here is something about Kafka on the Shore you might be interested in;

Lindsay said...

You should try Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I've read every Murakami novel published in English (even the two prequels to Wild Sheep Chase), and it's still my favorite. It's more similar to Kafka on the Shore and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, though. Dance Dance Dance is amazing: I just read that one a few weeks ago, and I was really impressed. Incidentally, Wild Sheep Chase is my least favorite Murakami novel, though your review makes me think I should give it a second read.

Moo said...

Wow! The power of Facebook. And I had no idea this was on the Murakami page. Thanks everybody for your many ideas on my next read. I agree with Nath that I need to read something else by Murakami before I get to Dance, Dance, Dance. I am thinking of either Norwegian Wood or Hard-Boiled Wonderland.