Haruki Murakami! Haruki Murakami! Ah! What can one say of the writer who teaches you about life? What can one say of the writer who teaches you mysticism with the world he creates with his words? What can one say of the meritorious writer who is the only one to make you understand the shades of emotions ever so deeply?
(I am biased, say you might. But when you will read Murakami, you will understand the mammoth the world is, with every world he creates!)
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese best-selling writer whose work has been translated into more than 50 languages. More than a million copies of his books have been sold. Murakami has won every literary award in Japan (literally!). A 71-year old writer is a lowkey person, who owned a bar at his young age. Murakami got his inspiration to write his first novel while watching a game of baseball!
Today, at BookArt101, we will list the best works of Murakami that will leave you wanting to read more and more of him. For he creates a magical void in you that wants to be fed!
Kafka on the Shore
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami is based on magical realism and is fantasy fiction. It is one of Murakami’s best and most famous works. The book revolves around two main characters from different generations and two stories which are intertwined. Kafka, a 15-year old Kafka, who runs away from his father and faces every ordeal to become the “world’s strongest fifteen-year-old boy” and Nakata, an old man is a simpleton, who suffered trauma and can talk to cats.
Kafka on the shore makes you realise the complexities of life and the layers in which life could be seen. The book takes you on a journey to the “other world”, “life in its complex form” and “near-death experiences” all in metaphors, which Murakami is best in. No other book has ever explained labyrinth as Murakami did in Kafka on the shore. The book also explores the sexual nature of human beings and discovers how it is connected to the inner-self.
The book is a journey of Kafka who is on a quest to find, lose and escape himself and Nakata who has seen enough that now has connected to the world of cats and stones (metaphorically). The book will engage you and will leave you wanting more and more!
“Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt.”
Norwegian Woods by Murakami is realistic, a nostalgic story which takes you in the time when you are 20 and in the time when you experience your first love. The book does not have any magical well, cats or any such magical element. But it still creates magic and how! The story is of a 20-year old, Toru Watanabe who reminisces about his first love – Naoko. But Naoko is torn after the death of her lover “Kizuki” and Toru is torn whether it is the same Naoko he knew or someone else and what he feels for Midori, a vibrant girl.
Murakami’s Norwegian Woods is one of his most beautiful books. No other book has ever explored the pain of death, loss, of losing everything in an instant and of expectations. When Naoko’s lover commits suicide, she hears his voice from the other side. Watanabe tries to convince her otherwise but loses. The other part of the book explores the struggle of Toru’s feelings for Midori while he comforts his first love.
The book makes us question our feelings and how they change or stay, makes us realise the pain of losing someone. Norwegian Woods by Murakami also explores the intensity and depth of sex. It is a teary testament of Murakami’s eloquence.
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
“Have you ever had that feeling? That you’d like to go to a whole different place and become a whole different self?”
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami is the sort of book which you don’t want to read because you want to read it over and over again! The book starts with an ordinary couple who tries to find their lost cat. But then it turns into an “other-world” novel. This time the story takes the form of a labyrinthine hotel, in which Okada Tōru’s wife, Kumiko, is held prisoner by her evil brother, Wataya Noboru. The husband must find a way to enter into the labyrinthine (metaphor again!)
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is surreal, if you allow yourself to flow into the world that Murakami creates, you will be numbed by the trance of life lessons he gives by drawing a parallel world. The book explores the alienation, the feeling of loneliness and the individual’s search for identity. It is a collaborative study of sex, violence and memories of a loss and gain.
Murakami in his typical style of creating a mystical world also stirs the story around to flag up issues in Japanese society. At the end of the book, you will feel like someone has woken you up rudely from the most beautiful dream; such is the book.
A Wild Sheep Chase
“Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.”
A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami is the third book in the “Rat” trilogy. The protagonist in the novel remains unnamed throughout. Why? Read the title again. The very title of the book is a metaphor of the person and the story that Murakami creates. The novel wraps mystical elements, fantasy and a reflection to our inner-self. “The Sheep” in the title is the one around which the story revolves. In it, the Murakami hero takes on a political-business-industry syndicate with apparently limitless money and power, and he does it on his own terms.
“The Sheep” is a mythical sheep which indicates the meaning of life, the innocence of a man which he loses in the world. The book by Murakami is a story about isolation and the weight of isolation. It is about the duality of nature which exists in the world. The book has all the mystical elements – a powerful sheep with a birthmark, a woman with magical ears, which makes it extraordinary.
A Wild Sheep Chase is a brilliant balance between complex and accessible. It is a multi-layered allegory. A story as much about physical journey combined with the spiritual journey of a person.
Dance Dance Dance
“What we seek is some kind of compensation for what we put up with.”
Dance Dance Dance by Murakami is for those who prefer a little fantasy leaning and are interested in the social deconstruction of Japan. Dance Dance Dance revolves around Murakami’s favourite way of writing with unnamed character (because as Shakespeare said “What is in the name?). The unnamed narrator investigates the disappearance of a woman, Kiki, he lived with at the Dolphin Hotel. But soon the plot takes a shift as the narrator meets the “Sheep Man”. After that, it is a blurred line as to when the mystic world begins and ends.
The book is a work of art as all of Murakami’s books. Dance Dance Dance questions “advanced capitalism” highlighting its tendency to buy and sell. It also includes basic human relationships, family and friendship. Nobody can explain the void that loneliness can give, but Murakami. To get a proper context of this book, one is recommended to read “The Wild Sheep Chase” first. Dance Dance Dance creates an unforgettable, metaphysical world.
“I can bear any pain as long as it has meaning.”
1Q48 by Murakami became a sensation when it was published and established Murakami as the icon writer and that identity has continued. The book takes up one of the fragile topics of fringe religious groups- a soaring topic for Japan after the Aum Shinrikyō terrorist attack of 1995. The book is a work of fiction embedded in reality. The story revolves around a personal trainer- Aomame who hunts and assassinates men who abuse women, and a mathematical genius- Tengo who writes ad copy. The story then takes the parallel worlds in which they find themselves.
The book 1Q48 is a dense and complex book which explores the impulses of human inner working in stark contrast with rigid rules of a religion. The book also dwells on how life can change with just one decision. The core of the book is a surprising love story. The book might seem complicated on the face of it, right? But it all comes together so well.
“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?”
Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami is his 9th novel. The novel is regarded as the one in which Haruki Murakami’s first-person story is taken. The story is about a protagonist, a primary school teacher, who is in love with a girl named Sumire, from his university. The book has been named after the Russian satellite. As the story develops, the love of the protagonist’s life grows apart because she loves someone else.
Sputnik Sweetheart is a story of lust and longing which is strange, lyrical, mysterious and has romance and a tinge of detective turn to it. In the world, where sex is often mistaken as love or vice-versa. Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart is strangely haunting, for it presents the pain of unreciprocated love, unrealized ambition, and desire, of a feeling of always wanting more. The world Murakami creates can seduce anyone into loving him.
Ever so rarely we come across writers and artists who create a world so unrealistic but yet so realistic and echoing! To read Murakami is to see in your soul.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you will also enjoy our blog on “Best Books by Ashwin Sanghi”, here.