Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (1999)

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and The Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves.

K falls in love with Sumire but a devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments - until she meets Miu, an older sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece K is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into a world beset by ominous, haunting visions.

Thoughts: Initially this seemed like the easiest of all Murakami's work to read, a simple love/friendship develops between two people and a third person becomes involved. This brief synopsis sounds like a terrible sitcom premise but in the hands of Murakami it is something beautiful. If you've experienced the powerful and complex narratives of Wind-up Bird or Kafka on the Shore you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” 

The regular Murakami themes of loneliness, isolation, effects of homogonisation of Japanese society are prevalent throughout but less reliant on mysticism and other worldliness. There's something quite wonderful about his style of writing that I just don't tire of, his metaphors are especially potent and the reference to Sputnik orbitting the Earth is one of the most enjoyable that I remember ever reading.

“In the world we live in, what we know and what we don't know are like Siamese twins, inseparable, existing in a state of confusion.”

Murakami's ability to create powerful visuals with his words is another aspect that keeps him head and shoulders above most other novellists writing today but the sense of loss he creates towards the end of this fabulous, slim novel is second to none and will linger in the mind for some time to come.

“Her voice was like a line from an old black-and-white Jean-Luc Godard movie, filtering in just beyond the frame of my consciousness.”

As a man who considers himself relatively closed off to emotion I'm unsure as to whether a novel should bring tears to your eyes and a pain in your heart but laying here alone in my empty house today that is what happened.

“We're both looking at the same moon, in the same world. We're connected to reality by the same line. All I have to do is quietly draw it towards me.”

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  1. Murakami is such a powerful writer, one of the best of this generation, and I think it'd be hard to find others that would disagree!

    This is definitely one of my favourites of his, and like you mentioned, it starts off as being a kind of love story, but then turns into something completely different and completely surreal, the kind of stuff I love in his work.

    Have you read After Dark by the way? If not, I urge you to as it is such a simple, wonderfully written book.

    So looking forward to reading your reviews on more books now! Definitely inspired me to follow more book-review blogs, too.

  2. Thank you! The surreal nature often overwhelms his work in my opinion but with this one it really felt like an organic extention of the narrative. The same is true of my favourite Murakami, Dance Dance Dance.

    After Dark is on my shelf waiting to be read and is the only novel of his that I'm yet to read infact. Well 1Q84 is coming out in a 2 part paperback set soon and then there will be two.

    1. Yes! Thank you for reminding me about 1Q84, definitely need to get a copy of that when it is in paperback.

      I need to read Dance Dance Dance, as I haven't yet, but it's Murakami (who is one of my favourite writers), so of course it's going to be solid - plus with your recommendation, too!

      And definitely check out After Dark as soon as you can! It's a really quick read, too - not very long at all.

  3. you're in America right? you may want this pretty boxset of 1Q84:

    I'm sure I must have mentioned it previously but check out the adaptation of the short Murakami story Tony Takitani, it's the only adaptation I've enjoyed so far.

  4. i really love his books and i bet this one is as good as the others

  5. Hi Mobb, thanks for stopping by. Murakami writes wonderful prose, this one might be a more simple premise than others but in my opinion is more enjoyable than them. When you find the time to read this one I feel certain you'll agree.