From the moment I picked up Kafka on the Shore I was a fan of Murakami’s. I have never read anything like him before or since, and I gorged myself onFrom the moment I picked up Kafka on the Shore I was a fan of Murakami’s. I have never read anything like him before or since, and I gorged myself on his back catalog. By the time I reached 1Q84 I had familiarized myself with his work, his career, and his style. Murakami writes modern magical realism, blends in classical music and literature, and creates a whole universe we as readers can inhabit for the length of his book. I adore him and I am not alone. Look at how many people downloaded the Sinfoneitta by Janácek, mentioned repeatedly in 1Q84; that is no coincidence.
1Q84 is filled with his average cast of characters. A laid-back educated man who likes to cook and has trouble with women; a gregarious teenage girl with Asperger ‘s syndrome who sees beyond reality; benignly sinister cult members who are “just doing their job”; a sexually aggressive woman—with sensual ears—who is looking to fill a void; emotionally distant people who seem to be rootless in life; and plenty of cats. Set them against a landscape that is neither reality nor un-reality, with a lot of waiting alone in confinement, and see how they react. It is a sociological experiment gone awry. This is the first book bordering on 1,000 pages that I have read in more than a decade, and despite the glacial pace of this novel, I was unable to put the novel down until I finished it.
Overall, this is a love story with complications. Two 10-year olds who united in a classroom search for each other 20 years later, physically and metaphysically, in an alternate timeline. One grows up to be an assassin of men who abuse women, the other a “not living up to his potential” teacher/writer. There is plenty of unusual circumstances, disembodied sex, other-worldly creatures, urban ennui, and Proust. Did that get your attention? Then read the book. Those new to Murakami start off with something “metaphysically” lighter. ...more
One aspect I enjoy in Latin literature is magical realism, which is used skillfully throughout this short novel. Yes, this is basically a romance—withOne aspect I enjoy in Latin literature is magical realism, which is used skillfully throughout this short novel. Yes, this is basically a romance—with recipes—about unfulfilled love, but Esquivel’s gentle touch makes it not as trite as one might fear. The book covers the entire life of Tita, the youngest of 3 neglected daughters of an unforgiving widow, who is able to communicate her feelings through cooking, the one and only love she is allowed to express. Her physical love, Pedro, is forced to marry her elder sister to be closer to her and thus creates an awkward situation that gets increasingly tense as their passion builds unspent, aside from her passionately cooked dinners. There are a couple of moments where the story borders on or crosses over into melodrama, but the originality of the piece works in its favor and allowed me to forgive some of the weaknesses. I have referred back to this book many times, especially the rowdy scene with middle sister Gertrudis, whose passionate response to one of her sister’s meals literally burns down the house and causes her to run off to become a prostitute and revolutionary… very funny and ridiculous and political at the same time. This book may not be for everyone, but when it finds the right reader, it will work its magic....more
I regret that I do not have the language skills to read this book in Portuguese. Once the reader gets accustomed the massive blocks of text—especiallyI regret that I do not have the language skills to read this book in Portuguese. Once the reader gets accustomed the massive blocks of text—especially when there is a back and forth conversation with no quotes—the playfulness of the author and the firmly placed tongue-in-cheek wit of this short novel will win you over. In Portuguese I can only presume the language-play works on a higher level, although the translation by Margaret Jull Costa seems to capture the spirit and timbre of the original text.
When death (lower case intentional) takes a holiday to prove her (gender also intentional) value to humanity, it creates all sorts of bureaucratic dilemmas (what shall we do with the piles of non-dead?!) in an unnamed country (and only that country). Saramago has a field-day with the political machinations of not dealing with the national crisis of the not-quite-dead, and the self-congratulatory opinion of the short-sighted government when it actually makes any decisions, no matter how "Band-Aid" the approach is. This can easily be read as a political allegory of your choosing, which makes the novel that much more brilliant.
The last third of the novel focuses on death herself and her inability to do her job (kill a harmless cellist whom she sort of falls in love with), which somewhat destroys the momentum of the overall story. This novel can easily be referred back to the ageing baby-boomers bankrupting social security in the US, as well as political states in which one must leave the borders to be free… and we have quite of few of those in the media today. Whatever your personal reading might be, this excellent novel is a worthy read in any language....more
Coming off and enjoyable experience in Death with Interruptions I took up with Blindness despite having watched the film based on the book. I was alreComing off and enjoyable experience in Death with Interruptions I took up with Blindness despite having watched the film based on the book. I was already acclimated to Saramago’s style (huge blocks of text, no quotes and dialogue that often runs together), so I was prepared for this dense meditation on what might happen if the world were plagued by blindness. Consider his theory: people begin to go blind for no apparent reason and the early victims are shuttled off into quarantine where they are left to their own devices as world order crumbles. Reminiscent of Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a new society emerges which breaks down into two camps, those with force vs those with persistence. At the head of those with persistence is the doctor’s wife, a woman who is not afflicted by blindness, but bears witness the intolerable conditions they must endure to survive. “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king,” and the doctor’s wife becomes a leader and protector of the loose collection of the newly blind as a representative subset of society. It is a fascinating tale that leads you to consider how easily we take our own sight for granted. How would you survive foraging for food with your hands for eyes? How would anything get accomplished if everyone has lost their vision? And what really matters once we have lost the ability to see? What intrigued me most as an author is the absence of names, for names do not matter in the world of the blind. The characters become their attributes: the doctor’s wife, the old man with the black eye-patch, the woman with insomnia, the woman with the dark glasses… ...more
“After the Quake” is an excellent entry point for Murakami. The short story collection is brief and gives the reader a sense of the author’s style bef“After the Quake” is an excellent entry point for Murakami. The short story collection is brief and gives the reader a sense of the author’s style before tackling something lengthier and more challenging. The collection links characters distantly impacted by the 1995 Kobe earthquake, people who can't face their own internal fractures. Murakami explores his recurring themes, including: going underground, Oedipal complexes, inspiration taken from nature and music, UFOs and very “reality based” surreal happenings, like a giant talking frog who shows up in the kitchen of a mild-mannered desk-jockey enlisting him to help save Tokyo from destruction. These stories are also linked by a loss of identity and the urgent desire to be free, whether from a failed relationship, religion, responsibility or one’s own lost dreams. If you are interested in taking on this excellent author, give this collection a taste....more