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Norwegian Wood

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Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

A magnificent blending of the music, the mood, and the ethos that was the sixties with the story of one college student's romantic coming of age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.

296 pages, Paperback

First published September 4, 1987

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About the author

Haruki Murakami

556 books109k followers
Murakami Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as 'easily accessible, yet profoundly complex'. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka...

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse 'Peter Cat' which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini's opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells' song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles' song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

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Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
855 reviews2,129 followers
September 29, 2016
Twenty Revolutions

The birthday I feared most was my 20th.

For people older than me, the most significant birthday was their 21st.

But when the age of legal adulthood was reduced to 18, turning 21 no longer had the same significance it once had.

Before then, you could be conscripted into the armed forces at 18, but you could not drink alcohol until you turned 21.

So, if you were old enough to die for your country, surely you were old enough to have a drink?

Either way, turning 20 for me meant that I had ceased to be a teenager, a group of people linked only by the fact that their age ended in the suffix “-teen”, but still it felt special not belonging to the grown up crowd.

On the other side of 20, you emerge from university (if you’ve been lucky enough to go there) and dive straight into full-time employment, maturity, responsibility, expectations and adulthood.

Suddenly, things are all a lot more serious, more permanent, less experimental, or this is how it seems.

Japanese-Style

Haruki Murakami writes about the Japanese experience in “Norwegian Wood”.

It’s set in the years 1968 to 1970, so it mightn’t be the same now.

However, it seems that the transition into adulthood is more demanding, more stressful.

It also seems that there are more casualties, more teenagers fail to make the transition and end up committing suicide.

Murakami writes about the transition almost like it’s a game of snakes and ladders.

You can climb into the future, success and normality, or you can slide into darkness, failure and death.

Well, Well

Murakami’s protagonist, Toru Watanabe, pictures the darkness as a well-like abyss early in the novel when he recounts the events of a day he spent with the girl he longs for, Naoko.

“I can describe the well in minute detail. It lay precisely on the border where the meadow ended and the woods began – a dark opening in the earth a yard across, hidden by grass. Nothing marked its perimeter – no fence, no stone curb (at least not one that rose above ground level). It was nothing but a hole, a wide-open mouth…You could lean over the edge and peer down to see nothing. All I knew about the well was its frightening depth. It was deep beyond measuring, and crammed full of darkness, as if all the world’s darknesses had been boiled down to their ultimate density.”

As a teenager, Toru’s life had been fairly innocuous, he had been playing in a meadow compared with the thicket that awaited him in the future.

But first he had to avoid the well in making the transition.

As his friend Reiko says in another context:

“She and I were bound together at the border between life and death.”

There is a sense in which we have to negotiate the boundaries as safely as we can, to cross the border and close the gap.

If we are lucky, we can do it together.

Unfortunately, not everybody is destined to make it into the forest and out the other side.

Vanishing Act

The overwhelming feel of reading “Norwegian Wood” is one of being in a blank, dream-like, ethereal world.

Although Murakami describes people, surroundings and objects with precision, it all seems other worldly, as if everybody lives and breathes in a world beyond this world.

There is a sense that at any moment, it could all disappear, that it might all just be part of some cosmic vanishing act.

Even if we make it through, we might turn around and discover that some of our friends haven’t been so lucky.

Talking about My Generation

Most of the action in the novel is dialogue, the characters talking about themselves and their relationships.

They are preoccupied with themselves, introspective and self-centred.

They converse, they play folk songs on the guitar, they write letters that are later burned.

Nobody makes anything that will last, other than perhaps themselves and the relationships that are able to survive into adulthood.

They struggle for permanence, when everything else around them is ephemeral.

Even their memories fade.

In the “frightful silence” of the forest, Naoko asks Toru:

“I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?”

Of course, he responds that he will, although 20 years later, he finds that his memory “has grown increasingly dim.”

“What if I’ve forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud?...the thought fills me with an almost unbearable sorrow.”

To which he adds, “Because Naoko never loved me.”

“Norwegian Wood”

The Beatles song features throughout the novel.

It’s a favourite of Naoko’s and Reiko plays it frequently on her guitar.

For much of the novel, the lyrics could describe Toru’s relationship with Naoko and his other love interest, Midori:

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”

There is a sense of sadness in the sexual subject matter of this novel, almost as if it's been written in a minor key.

Reiko sums up the Beatles pretty accurately, “Those guys sure knew something about the sadness of life,” she says, before adding, “and gentleness”, almost as an afterthought.

She Never Loved Me

I love all of this talk of love and longing and loss and loneliness and labyrinths (all the “L” words).

Not everybody feels the same, though.

You should have heard my wife, F.M. Sushi, when she noticed my tears and stole a look at what I was reading.

“Why don’t these people just stop moaning and get a life. Can’t they just grow up, for chrissake. Everybody’s responsible for their own orgasm.”

Then she flicked the book back at me across the room, adding defiantly (and defeating my prospects that night in one fell swoop), “Especially you.”

I pick up the book, find my place and resume reading where I left off (page 10), equally defiantly, and aloud...“Because Naoko never loved me.”

My wife turns her back on me as I snicker at her lack of understanding of my gentle side.

Growing Up (How Strange the Change from Minor to Major)

Still, a few hundred pages later, I am stunned by her prescience.

Toru grows up in Murakami’s delicate hands.

He has to stop dreaming, he has to live in the present, he has to embrace the now that is in front of him, he has to love the one he’s with.

He has to distance himself from the past, so that it becomes just a lingering memory.

Reiko tells him:

“You’re all grown up now, so you have to take responsibility for your choices. Otherwise, you ruin everything.”

Midori (who he has ummed and ahhed about) tells him:

“...you, well, you’re special to me. When I’m with you I feel something is just right. I believe in you. I like you. I don’t want to let you go.”

In the pouring rain, she reveals to Toru she has broken up with the boyfriend that has prevented her from committing to him.

“Why?” he asks.

“Are you crazy?” she screams. “You know the English subjunctive, you understand trigonometry, you can read Marx, and you don’t know the answer to something as simple as that?

Then in a scene that could come straight out of "Casablanca", she says:

“Drop the damn umbrella and wrap both your arms around me – hard!”

How did F.M. Sushi know this would happen?

That Toru would grow up and get a girl, not just any girl?

That they would fall in love and not into a deep, dark well.

Still I prefer Murakami’s way of telling the story.

It always comes as a surprise the way he tells it, the change from minor to major.

What would my wife know of these things?

What I find mysterious, she finds obvious.

When I find the harbour hard to fathom, she appears to walk on water.

If you put her in a labyrinth, she would always find her way out.

Whereas sometimes I prefer to hang around and enjoy the experience of being down in the rabbit hole.

Mystified. Confused. Excited.

At least for a little wile.

Original Review: October 3, 2011



Audio Recording of My Review

Bird Brian once initiated a Big Audio Project, where Good Readers record and publish their reviews. Unfortunately, BB deleted his page after the amazon acquisition of GR.

My recording of this review was my first contribution. You can find it on SoundCloud here:

http://soundcloud.com/inksterpop/soun...
Profile Image for Kenny.
490 reviews847 followers
January 22, 2023
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
Norwegian Wood ~~ Haruki Murakami


1

WOW ~~ what a terrific read Murakami's Norwegian Wood is! I loved this book. Even without the presence of talking cats, hollow earth monsters, and dimensional shifting characters, Norwegian Wood is a magical read. Best of all, we still get those Murakami flourishes of The Beatles (obviously), references to THE GREAT GATSBY, a character or two with uniquely large penises, and cats of the non-talking variety.

RANDOM THOUGHT 1: How brilliant to build and structure an entire novel around two lines from a lyric ~~
I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me


1

After reading many reviews here, I believe my take on Norwegian Wood to be quite different than most readers. This is Toru's story from start to finish. It is not the story of the love affair between Toru and Naoko as so many claim. Naoko, is a supporting character in Toru's journey as are Midori, Kizuki, Nagasawa & Reiko. I understand the fascination with Naoko, the doomed heroine we wish to save, but she is not the core of this story. The soul of this story is Toru ~~ we all wish we had a Toru in our life. It is Toru's journey we are embarking upon.

RANDOM THOUGHT 2: Norwegian Wood is Murakami's homage to THE GREAT GATSBY with Toru cast in the Nick Carraway role; this makes the others loosely cast ~~ Naoko is Daisy Buchanan, & Kizuki is Jay Gatsby. This would make Midori ~~ Jordan Baker, Nagasawa ~~ Tom Buchanan & Reiko ~~ Myrtle Wilson. It's not as far fetched as you are initially thinking.

OK ~~ let's move onto a proper review.

“What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better.”

Haruki Murakami ~~ Norwegian Wood


1

I found Norwegian Wood to be a beautifully optimistic book in the end. But it was a painful journey to arrive there. It is a wonderful book filled with some of Murakami's most beautiful prose. Our hero is Toru Wanatebe, a charming, honest, straight forward, no nonsense young man. Toru is perhaps Murakami's most easily identifiable lead character in all his books. Toru is wise beyond his years, a very deep thinker, and reads classic literature ~~ Mann, Fitzgerald, Hemingway. And he is very fucked up.

The story is told by Toru ~~ again, let me be clear on this. Norwegian Wood is the story of Toru's journey into adulthood; Norwegian Wood is not the love story of Toru and Naoko. To make it so limits what Murakami achieves ~~ and what he achieves is brilliant. Toru moves to Tokyo for his university studies because he wants to get away from a difficult event ~~ the suicide of his best friend Kizuki. Kuzuki's death has shattered Toru; his only way forward is to move on.

Naoko, the girlfriend of Kuzuki also comes to Tokyo for the same reason; a chance encounter one day brings them together. Toru is in love with Naoko but Naoko cannot love him back; she is broken. She is filled with a darkness that no one can penetrate. She isn't fighting demons; she is the demon.

Into this world comes Midori; she is the anti-Naoko ~~ fun, vivacious and full of life. But as with everyone else in this world, Midori is broken as well. Midori falls in love with Toru; but the road to love is filled with obstacles. They each struggle to keep their demons in check in this world built upon passion, grief, sex, denial, friendships and death ~~ lots of death.

1

Toru is increasingly torn by what he perceives to be his duty to Naoko and his feelings for Midori. The problem is that Naoko is incapable of love. She has never been able to love anyone. We do not learn the reason for Kizuki's suicide, but I believe it is due to Naoko's inability to love him. Kizuki has been devoted to Naoko his entire life; they grew up together. At 17, I believe he came to the realization that the love he felt for Naoko was not returned & never would be. To Naoko, their relationship was a game. Naoko does not have relationships, instead she plays games with the emotions of those who love her. Even her relationship with Reiko is built upon these games she plays.

Naoko is broken beyond repair, and she knows it. Yet she continues to play games with Toru. It will be many years before Toru realizes Naoko did not love him and was incapable of love; I'm sure he comes to realize Naoko's hand in Kizuki's death as well. Toru is the rock that so many build their lives on, and yet when with Naoko he becomes weak-willed and blue. She strings him along leading him to believe she desires him, but it is all a game. And there is always the ghost of Kizuki casting a shadow over the two of them ~~ a ghost that still haunts Naoko.

And there is Midori; she loves Toru, is available to him emotionally in a way that Naoko will never be, and best of all, she is not looking for a savior. If anything, Midori can save Toru. And yet Toru cannot commit to her. He is frozen. It is Toru’s indecisiveness that makes him live a life filled with drinking, casual sex, uneasy friendships, forced isolation, regret and melancholia. I told you Toru is fucked up.

1

Murakami, while emphasizing themes of death, love and disconnectedness, on Toru's journey, does not ignore the details Toru's day to day life as a university student. We journey with Toru to his classes, part time jobs and drinking at clubs with his only male friend, Nagasawa: we experience Toru's forays with casual sex and hookups and his inability to relate to the world around him. We feel the pressures on Toru to make choices at a young age. I loved Toru, wanted him as friend and was so angry at the poor choices he made along this journey.

Now, about that ending ~~ many of you who read Norwegian Wood have complained about the vagueness of the ending. I disagree. I think it was one of Murakami's clearest endings. Throughout Norwegian Wood, Toru never seems able to define himself apart from the people around him. He states himself that he is nothing special, possesses no special skills. He even describes his penis as ordinary. He's constantly the third wheel in his relationships ~~ Kizuki & Naoko, Naoko & Reiko, Nagasawa & Hatsumi. He tells stories about his roommate to impress people all the while never really telling anyone, including the reader much about himself. Toru defines himself by his perceived responsibility to be Naoko's emotional stability. With her gone, he's suddenly lost his purpose. The one thing he's been living for is gone and now he has to choose to move forward with his life as himself, not as Kizuki's friend, not as Naoko's lover, but as Toru. For the first time he must navigate the world as Toru. How liberating and terrifying it must be for him to be free from the past for the first time in his life. The subtlety of the ending perfectly reflects the delicateness and elusiveness with which Murakami renders this story of youth. He doesn’t wallow in the emotions but lets us feel Toru’s bewilderment as he approaches the crossroads of his life. Deceptively simple in terms of plot, the writing is so beautiful & the result is surprisingly affecting.

In the end, Norwegian Wood is a book which you can't help but loving. Murakami wins the reader over with abundant charm, echoes of youth, and a story we can all relate to.

1
Profile Image for Bel.
96 reviews130 followers
January 11, 2011
Before I begin may it be known that this was not my first Murakami. I read Kafka on the Shore and loved it. I read Wind-up Bird Chronicle and loved that too. So I got to thinking that maybe I should read the book that made him famous, the book that everyone in Japan is said to have read, that compelled Murakami to flee the country to escape the media attention. How disappointed I was when I finished. Also, I wrote this on iPad so the punctuation and capitalisation is off. I tried to fix all the auto correct but I may have missed a few.

The characters in this book are all loathsome. Toru Watanabe, the main character, is a self-pitying man looking back on his days at university in Tokyo during the student riots in 1969-1970 when he supposedly "fell in love". He attempts to paint himself as a "nice guy", deluded into believing himself to be honest and who has "never lied in his life" (an idea which is refuted several times in the novel. E.g. When midori asks him whether he slept  with Naoko since and he replies "we didn't do anything" - yeah, 'cause people generally rub up naked against each other and give blow jobs to anyone and everyone. You know, that's nothing. Also, bottom of page 350. Yeah) which often came off as whiny whenever he "felt bad" over the fact that he was not self-entitled to screwing people over and actually felt guilt (although this guilt only tended to manifest itself awhile later when he actually got around to thinking about people other than himself). One of many puzzling traits was his insistence at naming every single book and song that he was reading/listening to despite most of them being easily interchangeable, replaceable and irrelevant seeing as they had no correlation whatsoever to the plot or character development (a few exceptions being the song 'Norwegian Wood' [obviously], Das Kapital in relation with the setting of the student riots and the time, and there was a part where Toru was comparing himself to "Jay Gatsby watch(ing) that tiny light on the opposite shore night after night" [although I cringed at the feeble struggle to relate this tacky soap-operatic tale of Toru's wuv for Naoko's body to a symbol signifying Gatsby's obsession to repossess and re-enact what has evolved into a doomed and glittering illusion and the idea that the dream has surpassed the real and is better experienced from a distance]). Seriously, the number of smug name dropping probably extended the book a few dozen pages and you would think that someone who read so much would have at least developed even the smallest amount of empathy but, for all I know, Toru Watanabe spent all his time reading with his eyes glazed over thinking and feeling sorry for himself that he has to feel guilt over using girls as rebound.

What was even more depressing about this book was that every single female character was weak and dependent. From I'm-pretending-to-do-the-tough-girl-act-but-in-a-cute-subservient-way Midori who is needy and whiny (she has reasons for being moody and throwing tantrums but there are absolutely no excuses for being cruel and manipulative which is what she does to win Toru's heart) to I-don't-love-you-but-you-want-sex-and-blowjobs-and-I-can't-say-no-to-men Naoko to I'm-so-independent-and-empowering-and-independent-but-I-have-a-"small stomach"-and-can't-eat-much-*coughi'minsecureaboutmyselfcough* Reiko. Midori, however, is the character who ticks the generic box of 'being different', a thin veil attempting to hide the fact that she is actually the fantasy girlfriend of lot of insecure men. She is cute, she is kinky, desperate to sexually please men, is interested in "fuck(ing) like crazy", she is friendly and social with a lot of people, she cooks good food, cleans and is a hard worker and shows that she can slavishly take care of men ie domestic goddess. "I'm looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I  tell you I want to eat strawberry shortbread. And you stop everything you're doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortbread out to me. And I say I don't want it any more and throw it out the window. That's what I'm looking for." Are we supposed to find this endearing? Are we supposed to read this in wonder and awe and repeat to ourselves what Toru says afterward: "I've never met a girl like you"?

The thing is, it is in Murakami's style to present a lot of truisms and while in his other works, they are intertwined with the surreal in such a way that it doesn't matter whether they are huge generalisations or just really cheesy because they come from dreamlike layers echoing the absurd and the interior monologue of the character and so it isn't preachy, just something to think about. In Norwegian Wood, they are brash and blunt. The characters make sweeping and often blindly hypocritical and prejudiced assumptions disguised in the appearance of truth mostly about how they are so 'different' and everyone else are such boring sheep (in predictable hipster style: "liek omigod, i'm, liek, sooo unique and different?!?! Liek omigod, my tiny brain never thought of that!!!!") such as "never again would she have that self-centred beauty that seems to take its own independent course in adolescent girls and no one else". So ALL adolescent girls are all self-centred (sorry, self-centred beauty - like totally a compliment!!! *eyeroll*), huh, and Toru here wants US to think that HE is so exceptional when he manages to group half the population into (at one point) possessing a particular trait? There are a lot of "I don't know, I'm just a girl" moments but I reaaaaally don't want to have to open the book again and go look for them.

I could go on and on about how odious Naoko and Reiko were but this review is getting really long and all I've been talking about are the characters.

The plot, in all its boring and barely existing glory:
Toru Watanabe runs into Naoko, the girlfriend of Kizuki, his high school best friend (who had suicided a couple of years previous), and realises she has a hawt body. On her birthday he rapes (sorry, "makes love" to) her while she's distraught over Kizuki and she runs away to a mental asylum to get better. Toru whinges about loneliness. He meets Midori. Everything gets dragged out about how they are both sad and lonely. Toru visits Naoko at the asylum and meets her roommate, Reiko. Toru chooses Midori over naoko because she is a "real, live girl". Naoko commits suicide. Toru and Reiko fuck in her memory.

Half the book is whinge and whine, the other half objectifies women.     

Positives:

1. Murakami writes beautifully. It's as simple as that. Norwegian Wood is what you would get if you stamped a picture of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel onto a pair of crocs.

2. My mum likes the Beatles song and I've also had the song stuck in my head since reading this book.

3. It's over.      
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
526 reviews57.7k followers
December 21, 2022
Oh boy...Where to I even begin.

Pros: The writing and storytelling are good.

Cons: Every time I started to enjoy this book, the author made sure I didn’t.

1. The way the female characters would be compare to babies or kids during sexual scenes was a dealbreaker for me.

She had the breast of a little girl.(p.290)
Yeah that’ll do it.

2. I, once again, have to point that this is another book where the author seems obsessed with the wrinkles of a ~40yo woman. It’s now a personal pet peeve of mine. We literally get a whole paragraph about them when we first meet her. It’s a recurrent discussion throughout the book and I can already hear the excuses that it’s often for the POV of the 18yo or that maybe she’s insecure about it. Sure. Maybe. But ever since I started noticing how common this is, especially from male authors, I can’t unseen it and it annoys me.

3. The sex scenes, let’s talk about the sex scenes.

I wanted to explain to her, "I am having intercourse with you now. I am inside you. But really this is nothing. It doesn't matter. It is nothing but the joining of two bodies. All we are doing is telling each other things that can only be told by the rubbing together of two imperfect lumps of flesh."

I’d rather go back to reading fairy porn by Sarah J Maas.

4. My most serious complaint… the female characters didn’t ring true to me at all. Why are they all acting and saying these things around the MC?! The most flagrant one is when Reiko tells him about her SA. Why do male authors seem incapable of talking about SA without fetishizing it?


But this one is probably my favorite:



Could some of it be cultural differences? Because it’s set in 1968?
Maybe but I rate my books based on my enjoyment and I didn’t enjoy myself.

I don’t get the hype.

*It made it to my worst books of 2022: https://youtu.be/jOcHnWSUOEw
Profile Image for Yulia.
339 reviews317 followers
May 6, 2017
How this book became one of Murakami's most famous and popular baffles me. In fact, when asked about it in an interview, Murakami himself said that he was puzzled by its popularity and that it really isn't what he wants to be known for.

What can I say? There's too little of the characters that do spark my interest and much too much of the depressive girlfriend and her kooky friend at the mental institution. Also, the scenes which were supposed to be funny about his college roommate didn't interest me at all and ultimately struck me as dark and disturbing.

Perhaps this book resonated with so many people because ? No, that can't be. Murakami deals with depression much more thoughtfully and insightfully in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

The worst thing about this book's popularity is that it may be some readers' introduction to Murakami, which would very likely lead them to form a negative opinion of him and not care to explore his other works, which is just awful. This book should come with a warning: "Not recommended for pregnant women, may be carcinogenic, and not representative of Murakami's great genius."
Profile Image for Malbadeen.
613 reviews7 followers
July 7, 2008
UGH!!!
This book bugged the hell out of me for a few reasons:
#1. There is a somewhat extended passage devoted to a lesbian encounter that wouldn't be so terrible in and of itself, as sex in general is a major topic BUT the novel as a whole leaned towards describing the physiological experience the woman were having and would brush over the mens again and again. There would be like 5 paragraphs on the woman and then 1 sentence were it would say something along the lines of, "she took me in her hand and I came".

GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

It seemed like an exercise in writing (hmmmm, what would it be like to write from the females perspective) more than a contributor factor to the story.

#2. The girls in this book were all needy, dysfunctional, emotional or detached but sexy as all get out while the male was unsentimental, level headed and also sexy.

#3. the main male character had sex with 3 of the girl main characters (as well as countless unnamed characters) and apparently he was FABULOUS at it because 2 of the characters decided that they would never have sex again. that it could never measure up.

OH BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTHER!!!!!!!!!!!






Profile Image for Connie Rea.
488 reviews86 followers
September 20, 2011
Great ending. This sure was the saddest book I've ever read. Seems very dark and depressing, but the light comes out at the very end and you can see the sunshine through the clouds. I've never read a book like this and to be honest, I'm not sure I ever want to read another one. It just takes a piece of you and leaves you feeling a little empty. I don't even know how to explain it. It's like traveling up a mountainside on a dark gray day. Yes, the beauty is still there, but you have to look for it. You don't even notice the beauty before you because of the overcast skies. The higher up you go, the more drained you feel. At the very end, as you reach the top, you're bone weary and exhausted, both mentally and physically, but suddenly you can see above the clouds and it's so bright that your eyes hurt and the whole mountain suddenly looks different...you suddenly feel renewed...the world you thought was gloomy and gray is suddenly bright and new....and beautiful.....
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,079 reviews6,886 followers
January 31, 2023
[Edited 1/31/23]
This is a relatively early novel by this author, 1987. The book jacket tells us that this book booted him up from being a famous author to ‘superstar status.’ On GR it is one of his most highly-rated books.

description

It’s also the only -- I’ll call it ‘straightforward’ -- novel of the seven or so of his I have read. There is no science fiction or magical realism. No women in bars who may be ghosts, no hanging out in deep wells, no psychic cats, just a single moon.

We do have, as usual in Murakami, a cat, mention of a mysterious well, and western music, especially pop music such as that of the Beatles. Being an only child is often mentioned in Murakami’s novels – which would be true in low-birth-rate Japanese culture. I’d say the two main themes are sex and suicide

The main characters are a young man and a young woman. The woman is psychologically damaged by the suicide of their male friend when he was 17. Until then, the two boys and the girl had been an inseparable threesome. (This group of BFFs is repeated in the author's novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki where it is a fivesome of lifelong high school friends, boys and girls.)

Earlier the girl’s sister had also committed suicide. She is so stricken that she elects to go to a sanitarium until she can deal with life again. At times both characters say they have 'word-searching sickness' – the inability to put their feeling into words.

He feels responsible for the girl in the sanitarium and can’t make the break to commit to another young woman that he has fallen in love with. There is a story within the story from another woman at the facility. She had been a piano teacher and the story is of a lesbian relationship.

There’s a lot of sex in the book with little actual intercourse. You'll have to read it to see what I mean.

Set in 1969, many of the characters are in college against a background of student revolts, students taking over classrooms and universities closing. There’s a lot of talk of Marx and communism. Murakami was in college in Japan at this time.

Some passages that I liked:

“…the self I was then, the world I had then, where did they go?”

“Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt. Life is like that.”

“I’m all through as a human being… All you’re looking at is the lingering memory of what I used to be. The most important part of me, what used to be inside, died years ago, and I’m just functioning by rote memory.”

description

Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle remain my favorites of the half-dozen Murakamis I have read.

top photo from images8.alphacoders.com
photo of the author from i.guim.co.uk
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,239 reviews2,229 followers
February 19, 2015
I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood.


- The Beatles

Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood is a love story: on author’s own confession, “a straight, simple story” quite unlike the type of fiction he is well known for. Murakami claims the novel was a challenge to him, a test of his capability to write a “straight” story; many of his fans see it as a betrayal of what his works had stood for until then. Not having read any of Murakami’s works so far, I had the advantage of approaching it with an unprejudiced mind. And I found that while the story was straight, it was anything but simple.

The novel is one bunch of impressions. The prose is sensual, even voluptuous: descriptions of landscapes and weather are done in long and loving detail. There is very little exploration of inner mental states, other than as broad description of emotions, even though we are listening to only one voice throughout the book. It is rather like stream of consciousness turned outward.

I have been trying to do a traditional review of this book for quite some time now, but have been finding it impossible. So I will give you my impressions of reading the book.

Reading Norwegian Wood (for me) is like sitting on the porch at twilight during a rare break in the rains during the monsoon, watching the golden rays of the dying sun light up the rain-drenched earth, and filling your lungs with the smell of the rain.

Reading Norwegian Wood is like waking up on a winter morning, opening the window and getting hit in the face by an invigorating blast of icy East Wind.

Reading Norwegian Wood is like staying up late, listening to the harmonious cacophony of drums at our local temple festival, inhaling the aroma of the burning lamp wicks and incense.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.2k followers
April 16, 2020
Murakami divides his novel into two. There is the past and death. Then there is future and life. What road do you take?

Seems like an easy question to answer. But what happens when you are in love with the past? And what happens when you so desperately want to save that past from such a death? Life becomes complicated and the prospect of the future feels like a brutal betrayal of one who is desperately clinging to you. You are her anchor; her only connection with reality. And you love her. How can you ever walk away? Life is fickle, though true love isn’t. Sometimes we have to do the hard thing and let go even if it kills us.

"The dead will always be dead, but we have to go on living."

Such words are easier said than put into practice. Sometimes the dead carry so much of ourselves that living without them is not quite living anymore. Toru lost his best friend when he was seventeen. He killed himself. We never find out why, but I have my own ideas about what and who caused it. He carries on, feeling empty. He falls in love with his dead friend’s girlfriend Naoko but she has her own problems. They maintain a friendship for a year, and then she institutionalises herself because she simply cannot cope with life in the wake of her old boyfriend’s death. He was her soulmate and now she is rudderless in a sea of uncertainty.

Anyone who has read a Murakami will know the importance of music in his storytelling. These lyrics say more than I ever could about the novel. Read them, hear them and feel them.

Cue the music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeQks...

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) by the Beatles.

I once had a girl
Or should I say
She once had me

She showed me her room
Isn't it good
Norwegian wood

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn't a chair

I sat on a rug
Biding my time
Drinking her wine

We talked until two
And then she said
"It's time for bed"

She told me she worked in the morning
And started to laugh
I told her I didn't
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke
I was alone
This bird had flown

So I lit a fire
Isn't it good
Norwegian wood


I want to interpret them and put them in the context of the novel and explain what they mean, but to do so would be to ruin it all for you. If you have read the book read through the lyrics and ponder the actions Naoko takes towards the end of the story, what she does and why she does it seemed a little selfish to me at first. But the lyrics tell the truth. Perspective is everything and we never had the perspective in the novel that would have spoken the truth.

Norwegian Wood is a novel that feels like it should never have ended. It is the sort of book that carries you away into the lives of the characters and should carry on as long as they continue to live. With suicide such a strong theme through the novel, no less than three major characters commit it, I was surprised the ending was not more of a universal ending so to speak. The power of the writing resides in his ability to tangle you up within the story. Murakami’s characters here feel so terribly, tragically, real. They are some of the most human I’ve ever encountered on a page.

It all felt so desperately unresolved towards the end of the story. But isn’t that life? How often do we truly resolve our daemons and feel satisfied with how things went? Rarely. Norwegian Wood is a dangerous novel because it has a certain sense of universal appeal; it has the ability to speak to may a reader as they compare their own situation to that depicted here. Sure, it’s likely less dramatic but the need to move on being weighed against a past that hangs over us, whatever that past may be, is a dilemma most of us will face.

But the real question is did I enjoy it and would I recommend it?

I would recommend it, but I certainly didn’t love it. There’s little to love here, but there is also little to hate. What Murakami delivers is a sprawling peak into the lives of a bunch of severely damaged youths coping with the realities of what emptiness means. Take from it what you will. A warning though, it may hurt.

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Profile Image for Sophia..
52 reviews2,523 followers
January 31, 2013


Turns out I can't find a SINGLE fuck to give. It takes forever to start, the characters are bland and absolutely unrealistic, they don't sound real, the sex is so unhealthy and weird and awkward, the narrator is pretentious as fuck, the dialogues are painful, and the plot -- huh, wait, there's no plot.

So yeah. Big, fat DNF.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
July 30, 2021
ノルウェイの森 = Noruwei No Mori = Norwegian wood (1987), Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood is a 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

A 37-year-old Toru Watanabe has just arrived in Hamburg, Germany. When he hears an orchestral cover of the Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood", he is suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of loss and nostalgia.

He thinks back to the 1960's, when so much happened that touched his life. Watanabe, his classmate Kizuki, and Kizuki's girlfriend Naoko are the best of friends.

Kizuki and Naoko are particularly close and feel as if they are soulmates, and Watanabe seems more than happy to be their enforcer.

This idyllic existence is shattered by the unexpected suicide of Kizuki on his 17th birthday. Kizuki's death deeply touches both surviving friends; Watanabe feels the influence of death everywhere, while Naoko feels as if some integral part of her has been permanently lost.

The two of them spend more and more time together going for long walks on Sundays, although feelings for each other are never clarified in this interval.

On the night of Naoko's 20th birthday, she feels especially vulnerable and they have sex, during which Watanabe realizes that she is a virgin. Afterwards, Naoko leaves Watanabe a letter saying that she needs some time apart and is quitting college to go to a sanatorium. These events are set against a backdrop of civil unrest.

The students at Watanabe's college go on strike and call for a revolution. Inexplicably, the students end their strike and act as if nothing had happened, which enrages Watanabe as a sign of hypocrisy. Watanabe is befriended by a fellow drama classmate, Midori Kobayashi. She is everything that Naoko is not — outgoing, vivacious, and supremely self-confident.

Despite his love for Naoko, Watanabe finds himself attracted to Midori as well. Midori reciprocates his feelings, and their friendship grows during Naoko's absence.

Watanabe visits Naoko at her secluded mountain sanatorium near Kyoto. There he meets Reiko Ishida, an older patient there who has become Naoko's confidante.

During this and subsequent visits, Reiko and Naoko reveal more about their past: Reiko talks about the cause of her downfall into mental illness and details the failure of her marriage, while Naoko talks about the unexpected suicide of her older sister several years ago.

When he returns to Tokyo, Watanabe unintentionally alienates Midori through both his lack of consideration of her wants and needs, and his continuing thoughts about Naoko.

He writes a letter to Reiko, asking for her advice about his conflicted affections for both Naoko and Midori. He does not want to hurt Naoko, but he does not want to lose Midori either.

Reiko counsels him to seize this chance for happiness and see how his relationship with Midori turns out. A later letter informs Watanabe that Naoko has killed herself.

Watanabe, grieving and in a daze, wanders aimlessly around Japan, while Midori — with whom he hasn't kept in touch — wonders what has happened to him.

After about a month of wandering, he returns to the Tokyo area and gets in contact with Reiko, who leaves the sanatorium to come visit.

The middle-aged Reiko stays with Watanabe, and they have sex. It is through this experience, and the intimate conversation that Watanabe and Reiko share that night, that he comes to realise that Midori is the most important person in his life.

After he sees Reiko off, Watanabe calls Midori to declare his love for her.

Midori asks, "Where are you now?", and the novel ends with Watanabe pondering that question.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم ماه نوامبر سال 2014میلادی

عنوان: ‏‫جنگل نروژی؛ نویسنده: هاروکی موراکامی، موضوع: داستان‌های نویسندگان ژاپن - سده 20م

مترجم: مهدی غبرايی، تهران، کتاب نشر نیکا‏‫، 1392، در ‏‫400ص؛ ‏‏شابک 9786005906950؛

مترجم: معصومه نتاج عمرانی، نشر تهران، نوای مکتوب‏‫، 1394، در ‏‫384ص؛ ‏شابک 9786009576005؛

یک کارگردان «تایوانی»، به نام «تران آن هونگ»، با اقتباس از همین کتاب فیلمی سینمایی ساخته است

جنگل نروژی، نام داستانی عاشقانه، درباره ی بزرگ شدن، زندگی کردن، و درگذشتن است؛ داستانی ساده، که با احساس روایت می‌شود، داستانی درباره ی عشق، احساسات، زندگی، مرگ، هنر، آزادی، و مسئولیت‌ پذیری است؛ داستان عشقی پر پیچ و خم که میان «واتانابه» و دیگر دوستانش در جریان بوده است؛ در آغاز داستان، راوی وارد «آلمان» میشود، و در فرودگاه، با شنیدن موسیقی، به گذشته بازمیگردد، به هجده سال پیش، و به تصاویر یک دیدار، و سپس تصویرها در هم پیچ و تاب میخورند، و سالهای رو به بیست سالگی خودش را، بازگو میکند، سالهای رشد ذهنی و جسمی، آشنایی با پیرامون و خودکشی نزدیکترین دوستان؛ عنوان این رمان «موراکامی» برگرفته از آلبومی از گروه موسیقی «بیتلز» است؛ ورای داستان عشقی پیچیده ای که میان «واتانابه» و دیگران در جریان است، «موراکامی» تلاش میکند تا مراحل رشد اندیشه های «واتانابه» و دیگر شخصیتها از داستان کتاب «جنگل نروژی» را به تصویر بکشد

نقل از آغاز داستان: (سی و هفت ساله بودم، آنوقت که توی صندلیم، در هواپیمای بزرگ 747، در میان انبوهی از ابر، که فرودگاه هامبورگ را پوشانده بود غوطه خوردم.؛ باران سرد نوامبر زمین را خیسانده بود، همه چیز هوای غم ‌انگیز چشم ‌انداز فلیمیش منطقه‌ ای در شمال کشور بلژیک را به عاریه گرفته بود خدمه ی فرودگاه، در بارانی‌هاشان، مه حلقه زده بر فراز ساختمان فرودگاه، یک بیلبورد تبلیغاتی بی ام و پس... باز هم آلمان)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 29/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 07/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Markus.
470 reviews1,518 followers
January 11, 2016
"Those were strange days, now that I look back at them. In the midst of life, everything revolved around death."

Welcome to Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami; a tale of a bunch of suicidal perverts in Japanese universities.

No, honestly. This book is essentially about two things: sex and death. There are hidden meanings everywhere, but when you cut away that and go to the core, that’s what’s left. And my, does the book have a lot of sex. Weird forms of sex. And a lot of death. And not in a good way either.

But it’s also a very powerful book. It doesn’t tell any grand and special story, but rather indulges in an exploration of the human mind, and the stories hidden in the ordinary pasts of the ordinary people around us. The writing is nothing special, but I somehow found it very captivating. There were times when I found it very difficult to stop.

Part of what made the book stronger, was that the characters were so easy to relate to. All of them had aspects, positive as well as negative, that I could recognise in myself and those around me. My favourites were Nagasawa...

"I may be a selfish bastard, but I'm incredibly cool about shit like that. I could be a Zen saint."

and Naoko...

"That song can make me feel so sad," said Naoko. "I don't know, I guess I imagine myself wandering in a deep wood. I'm all alone and it's cold and dark, and nobody comes to save me."

In the end, I don’t know what to say about this book. I liked it well enough at times. I hated it at times. I felt indifferent about it at times. If this book were representative of Murakami’s works, I would never read another by him. However, relax, Murakami fans. I know that it isn’t.

Am I glad I read this book? Would I recommend it? The obvious answer that comes to mind for both questions is no. It can be very depressing, and actually took an emotional toll on me. And having finished, I am left without the feeling that this was a must-read book. It wasn’t particularly good, and it didn’t send an important message. But for some inexplicable reason, it was still worth reading. In a way.

At least until the end. When I finished the book, I ended up wishing I had never read it. And I think I stand by that after some thinking. While it wasn’t the worst book I’ve read, I can honestly say that I hate it now. I know that many people love it, which is totally okay. But please respect that this book hit me in the gut with full force. It almost constantly switched between making me feel angry, sad, annoyed and disgusted. Little else.

Other than that, we can’t always explain why we feel the way we do about something, books included. Sometimes it’s best to leave it behind, and move on.

"The dead will always be dead, but we have to go on living."
Profile Image for Mutasim Billah .
112 reviews189 followers
August 13, 2020
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”


CAUTION: This isn't a love story

This was my first introduction into the world of Murakami. This isn't a sappy love story as some Murakami fans would like to tell you. Haruki Murakami himself was baffled by the popularity that this story achieved due to the novel's departure from the usual surrealist themes that are associated with his novels. The fame achieved through Norwegian Wood had so profound an effect on the writer that he had to leave Japan and traveled across Europe and lived in the USA for some time, which resulted in the writing of Dance Dance Dance .



Set in the '60s, Norwegian Wood has us walking through the musings of one Toru Watanabe, who looks back to the days of his youth when he participated in student protests and the people he connected with during that time. So is there no love-story? There are allusions to love, but there is no love-story. The prime themes of Norwegian Wood are loneliness, existential ennui, depression and suicide. Though, like most Murakami plots, these themes are brought about with some subtlety. The book made me reflect deeply into the past at times and induced strong feelings of nostalgia. I can safely recommend this to readers of any genre or style of literature.



The novel was adapted into a film in 2010.
Profile Image for Kristin Myrtle .
113 reviews36 followers
June 9, 2021
I can't explain it! I want to inhale the pages of this book, grind them up, and snort them right up my nose! I want in placed directly in my brain, my very BLOODSTREAM! Murakami's words make me feel just like Nicole Kidman in that scene in Moulin Rouge where she is rolling around on that fur rug in her negligee, moaning and writhing in pleasure and saying 'Yes! Yes! Dirty words! More! More! Naughty words!' Although Murakami's words aren't so much naughty and dirty as they are prismatic and mysterious. I wish I could weave his sentences into a rug to roll around on. They're magical and mystical... they break my heart.
Profile Image for Luffy.
939 reviews702 followers
June 9, 2021
I don't have many meaningful things to say about Norwegian Wood. First, a disclaimer. This is, by no means, a romance book - no offence meant. I cannot suffer to attach such a tacky word on this book. Oh, what do I know, it IS a romance book. But it is laterally more than that.

Like Dickens, Murakami fuels his potboiler with death of the innocent. Each one is offing herself. That's right. What really matters is the subtext. In all superficial opinion, Watanabe is having a normal college life. But though the actions of his peers unravel with robotic neatness, in the background there's chaos going on.

Watanabe's best bud, Nagasawa, plays the devil's advocate. Showing himself as an evil guy, which he partially is, he prompts and tempts and gauges. He teases with Watanabe's rhythm of orderliness.But stuff was happening before they met. The one humanitarian thing that Watanabe does, in the hospital, attending upon Midori's dad, is hefty in its purity. That's what lacks in classical literature, ambivalent people who have their own set of morals. People who still are heroes.

There is the question of death lingering throughout the book. Near the end I was fed up with these upheavals. But then the hero himself put him in purgatorial madness. The sex in the book doesn't appear obscene at all. It feels natural. The people who don't feel real, such as Midori, are still full of a palette of colours. She is a healthy caricature. And she does her job of making me laugh. In a way Midori is the most generous girl of the bunch.

Murakami had always been a closed door for me. But if his other work is like this one, then I need a second crack at one of his other books. I tried hard not to let spoilers show, but man has Murakami got the talent to keep churning interesting words. The best thing is that few people notice that beneath this seamless flow of words, lie a lot of twists. Twists are what make art great. And this was great art. It contains lots of films, literature, the Beatles' music, Bach, Mozart. And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.

Thanks to my cyber friend, Manju, to recommend this book to me.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,527 reviews787 followers
October 8, 2021
So. Damn. Good. Toru Watanabe is reminded of the love, and of the pain, of his youth every time he hears Beatles' songs such as 'Hey Jude' and... 'Norwegian Wood'. The reader is then cast back to Toru's late teenage and early 20s youth in the late '60s and early '70s centred around Tokyo. A simple premise - an old(er) person recalling their youth? Not with Murakami is it isn't! So. Damn. Good.

Murakami surprised many at the time, by writing a 'normal' novel as opposed to his magical realist mainstays; and he himself admits to be being 'shocked' and 'dismayed' when this book turned him from a niche cult writer to a world famous celebrity author! And therein lies the beauty of this amazing piece of work, as it is anything but normal. The cast of characters are innovative, formidable and brain hurting (yes, hurting!), from the almost callous ultra-realist Nagasawa, to the highly strung but firestorm of almost unhinged practicability on her own terms Midori.

As per usual, his writing is pitch perfect; and in addition the dialogue and some of the exchanges in this book blew me away. This is anything but just a normal novel. FIVE STAR READ - 11 out of 12.

My 2008 one sentence review was: 'An understated masterpiece by Murakami'
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,122 reviews1,622 followers
February 16, 2023
LIFE BLUES

description
L’immagine manifesto del film di Tran Anh Hung presentato alla Mostra del Cinema di Venezia nel 2010, da cui vengono anche le immagini che seguono.

Toru Watanabe ha trentasette anni, e all’inizio di questa storia sta atterrando sull’aeroporto di Amburgo a bordo di un Boeing 747.
La radio trasmette la celebre e magnifica canzone dei Beatles, Norwegian Wood, che è il titolo originale di questo romanzo, Tokyo Blues è un’invenzione della prima edizione italiana.
Sulle note della struggente canzone dei quattro di Liverpool, parte il lungo flashback che ci riporta vent’anni prima.

description

Il primo ricordo che prende forma è l’incontro casuale con Naoko, la fidanzata di Kizuki, l’unico vero amico di Toru Watanabe, morto suicida pochi mesi prima. La scoperta che Naoko è ancora vergine (e allora la sua storia d’amore con Kizuki?, si chiede Toru Watanabe), gli anni dell’università, l’amore impossibile per la stessa Naoko che finisce ricoverata in una clinica psichiatrica, quello per Midori, compagna di studi, a sua volta segnata da una serie di lutti familiari, l’amicizia con Nagasaka, ragazzo spregiudicato e controverso.
Eros e Thanatos a go go, a braccetto, sciolti in un ballo senza fine (dance dance dance, appunto).
Un viaggio all’insegna dello struggimento, della nostalgia, del rimpianto.

description

La memoria trasforma, modifica, plasma, trasfigura, enfatizza quello e trascura quell’altro…?
Sì, forse no.
Personalmente propendo decisamente per l’ipotesi affermativa.
Nel dubbio Murakami, genialmente adotta la prima soluzione e le lascia campo libero: l’infanzia del protagonista Toru Watanabe è rivista attraversa la lente della memoria e quindi, succeda quello che deve succedere quando si maneggia uno strumento così delicato come il ricordo.

description

La conclusione cui Murakami sembra arrivare è di conseguenza sacrosanta, attendibile, da abbracciare e sottoscrivere: crescere, diventare adulti significa rinunciare ai nostri sogni giovanili, agli ideali e a tutto ciò per cui pensavamo valesse la pena combattere. Sogni, ideali, progetti magari folli, irrealistici: ma chi può dire che la realtà sia da preferire al sogno?

description

Ho fatto di tutto per prolungare la lettura, ma a un certo punto sono per forza di cose arrivato alla fine, anche se avevo già ricominciato a leggerlo dalla prima pagina.

Ho messo su le canzoni dei Beatles a oltranza.

Ho sentito profumo di Jules et Jim e tanto tanto di Truffaut, mai abbastanza rimpianto.

Ho avuto la sensazione che non stessi davvero leggendo, ma che ci fosse Toru Watanabe a raccontarmi questa storia, un lungo magnifico racconto diretto solo a me.

description

Il Prima della rivoluzione di Murakami.

Il film che ne è stato tratto dal regista franco-vietnamita Tran Anh Hung, che è ancora inebriato dal profumo della papaya verde, è il classico prodotto da festival che lascia le sale deserte, una sorta di raggelato videoclip, ogni passione spenta, eliminata ogni possibilità di coinvolgimento: un film ‘emo’ senza l’emozione.

description
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,008 reviews4,006 followers
Shelved as 'dropped'
April 5, 2012
Question: How much Norwegian Wood would a Norwegian woodchuck chuck if a Norwegian woodchuck could chuck Norwegian Wood? Answer: The same amount as a Swedish woodchuck. So I read 160 pages of this novel. Then I hit a four-day Reader’s Block (also precipitated by problems in my personal life, but I’ll save those for Oprah) and read nothing. I called a librarian and explained the problem. She suggested I undergo an intense course of Murakami Avoidance Therapy (MAT), whereby I put down all Murakamis I am reading at that moment and read writers who are not Murakami. And you know what, I was cured! Those librarians know what they are talking about . . . even if they can’t string a sentence together. So I put Murakami down. It was a relief. Because those first 160 pages were so inconsequential and drab, so unremarkable and airy, I felt like I was walking through an airport terminal at 4AM on a Prozac-laden soporific in my slippers . . . walking towards the bookstore where Murakami’s Norwegian Wood sits on the bestseller list, to be read by people-too-busy-to-read-books who think this is the cutting edge of contemporary literature, and in translation too, so twice as chic and clever, despite nothing happening except a dull student who thinks he’s Holden Caulfield hanging out with a bland-but-mysterious possible lover, then a clichéd playboy who introduces him to casual sex, then another girl who almost shakes the novel back into life but no, zzzzzzzzzzzzz. And the translator sort of loves the phrase sort of . . . people are sort of people and kind of humans, but are more insert-faux-poetic-description here, or perhaps sort of human after all, no? So thanks, librarian! MAT has saved me from four more hours of mediocrity! Hug a librarian tomorrow!
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,166 reviews2,235 followers
February 1, 2023
This one is as dark as your fears.

Murakami's writing brings me a kind of comfort. No, not the nature-painting-classical music kind of comfort. It's the comfort I get from seeing the transparency of all the ugliness of the dark side of us in our beingness. However dark and deadly his writing seems to be, all I can feel is the subtle pink and peach hues of tenderness while reading his books. This is the first book of Murakami that I have ever read.

There's a lot of dark themes that are represented in this story. Mental illness in all its detailed description can be seen through one of the main characters. The story is so real but it seems like I have been prepared to accept everything I was about to read. The characters are totally unapologetic. Character development is so well done. The pangs of being a human being - I can feel it real while reading this one. It will always be difficult to express how I feel about a full-fledged Murakami book but all I can write in details is about how his books and writing make me feel. And that too incomplete everytime. I don't enjoy reading sad themes in books until and unless it make me feel something significant. I don't consciously look for books which will make me feel lost but Murakami's writing always make me float and fly. And this has become a habit. I crave for his writing. I crave for his books once in a while. I particularly enjoy his writing when I feel like I am one person living in the midst of everyone and everything else that's going on but not feeling a part of them.

His books are not for my entertainment. His books are not for enjoyment. His books are necessary to feel I am a human being after all. His books are meant to make me feel life is what it is. His writing makes me feel there's beauty in pain and death and heartbreaks. The kind of beauty only Murakami can make me feel.

Why the one star less for this book?
I felt cheated towards the end of the book. Something impulsive happened which I cannot digest even after two years of reading it.

But mind you, this one ends well. Beautifully.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
212 reviews157 followers
July 3, 2022
“Letters are just pieces of paper,” I said. “Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay; keep them, and what vanishes will vanish.”

While on a flight headed to Germany, Toru Watanabe hearing the melody of The Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’ starts to remember his youth spent in Tokyo. A time of friendships, passion, loss and desire.

Written as a flashback, Norwegian Wood revolves mostly around three central characters - Toru, Naoko and Midori. The story is filled with atmosphere, history and references to music and literature. While this is a story about love and the many shapes it takes, it's also about loss, mortality and the struggle to continue living among death.

“Something inside me had dropped away, and nothing came in to fill the cavern.”

Murakami's writing is soft, lyrical and effortless, and the story itself is heart-warming, strangely romantic and heartbreaking at the same time. Transporting, haunting and beautiful. I adored this and highly recommend it.

“What makes us the most normal,” said Reiko, “is knowing that we’re not normal.”
Profile Image for Mohammed-Makram.
1,390 reviews2,931 followers
January 16, 2023



الموت موجود لا بوصفه نقيضا للحياة بل بوصفه جزءا منها



رغم انك تستطيع أن تتنبأ بكل أحداث الرواية و رغم أنها أحداث عادية جدا و لا يتوافر فيها عنصرا السريالية و الإبهار الذين تميز بهما موراكامى إلا أنك لا تكف أبدا عن القراءة و تتمنى ألا يقاطعك أيا كان و يخرجك من مودك



كأنك تبحر في نهر النيل في أجواء ربيعية فلا أمواج و لا مفاجآت و لا تقلبات بحرية بعكس كافكا على الشاطئ التي لم نرى فيها شواطئ أبدا



الشىء الظريف أننى خارج من قراءة تشيكوف لقراءة موراكامى و لذلك فقدت الإحساس بالأسماء لغرابتها و صعوبة نطقها فلم أعد أحفظ أي اسم أو حتى أركز فيه و أصبحت أتعرف على الأشخاص بما يشبه طريقة برايل ... فهذا هو بطل القصة و هذا صديقة المقرب و تلك جارته و هذه صديقتها و هذا ابن عمه .... و هكذا



الإستثناء هنا كان واتانابى الذى كان يحمل على كتفيه الجبال منذ البداية إلى النهاية
البطل أربعينى يتذكر أحداث واكبت عامه العشرين ... بيفكرنى بواحد صاحبنا :)



قد يحسده البعض لأنه عالق بين عدة فتيات و حتى الصديق الوحيد الذكر كان مبدأه اليوم خمر و نساء و غدا نفعل ما نشاء

الرواية أصلا ليست لأصحاب القلوب الضعيفة و لا الدمعة القريبة فالأحداث عبارة عن سلسلة من الأحزان و الأزمات المتتابعة التي يتعامل معها واتنابى و كأنه يشرب الماء



فور إنهاء الرواية قررت أن ��شاهد الفيلم و لكنه لم يضف أي شيء إلا بعض المناظر الطبيعية و اختزال الأحداث بصورة كبيرة

المفاجأة في النهاية هي أن العدم هنا هو عين الوجود فلا فرق بين من مات و من عاش على ذكراه مما يجعل الأمور تختلط علينا و نتسائل في أي مكان نحن الأن.
Profile Image for Carolyn Marie  Castagna.
270 reviews5,539 followers
February 28, 2023
*Norwegian Wood by The Beatles plays softly as a single tear slides down my face*

“And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian Wood?”
Profile Image for Adam Dalva.
Author 7 books1,511 followers
May 5, 2019
I revisited Norwegian Wood remembering nothing about my college year experience with it, nothing except that I loved it. And I can see why: the plot is propulsive, with Murakami’s kinetic prose once again keeping me up late; the lead character is a well-realized loner archetype; the world, 1960s Japan during the student protests, glimmers in the background. There are excellent long-sequences (hospital visit, fire, sanatorium) It is salacious and often funny, well-observed:

“The second feature was a fairly normal sex flick, which meant it was even more boring than the first. It had lots of oral sex scenes, and every time they started doing fellatio or cunnilingus or sixty-nine the soundtrack would fill the theater with loud sucking or slurping sound effects. Listening to them, I felt strangely moved to think that I was living out my life on this odd planet of ours.”

And yet, things gave me pause. The book is set in the past, yes, but the rape humor (several jokes), the shocking scene of lesbian pedophilia (which is as bizarre and creepy a sequence I can remember reading (more on that in a second)), the way every female character in the book is a sex object, and the extremely rare trio of Magic Pixie Dream Girl characters, all of it vexed me. I do not hold this against Murakami, necessarily—he wrote it in the 80’s, and the book is about sex—but the gender issues keep me from giving this book my full endorsement.

As ever with Murakami, the western canon’s influence is fascinating. Toru, the lead, reads Magic Mountain while visiting a sanatorium; he makes friends by talking about The Great Gatsby; he spends a late-night reading Hermann Hesse; most pertinently to the plot, he is a lover of John Updike, particularly The Centaur. There’s a good running joke in the undercurrent of the novel – everyone except Toru is reading and loving Kenzaburo Oe.

SPOILERS, BIG SPOILERS:

Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
707 reviews2,590 followers
March 5, 2023
أول راوية طويلة متعجبنيش لموراكامي..
جايز تكون كئيبة بزيادة..جايز أكون قريتها في وقت غلط..معرفش..
بس مقارنة بروايات هاروكي التانية..الرواية دي عادية أوي...تفتقد الكثير من جنان هاروكي الموجود في رواياته الأخري...
بس علي الرغم من كدة ومع حجم الراوية الكبير إلا إن قلم هذا الرجل مازال ساحراً وإسلوبه ممتع وبيخليك تقرأ وتكمل عادي حتي لو القصة مش عجباك ودة مينفعش يحصل مع أي حد غير ...موراكامي:)
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
857 reviews1,730 followers
August 3, 2018
I started reading this book back in February but I think timing was not right and we didn’t click. I stopped after 20%, and also I thought it was weird with all its sex talk, alcoholism, and suicides. Fast forward to June and my buddy said she was reading and I had to read this, at least give it a try before finally ditching it. I wanted to have something in my defense when I tell my group of friends that why I didn’t like this book (he is super popular among my friends).

"But who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives."

In his own special way Murakami explores the Japan of late 60s and early 70s from the eyes of Toru Watanabe, a student in Japanese University. This beautiful coming of age of story analyse the love triangle of Toru, Naoko, and Midori. While Toru and Naoko were bound by the death of their close friend Kizhuki (Naoko and Kizuki were childhood sweethearts), Midori was someone whom Toru met in university days and became deeply attached to. These three characters represent devotion, heartbreak, love, regret, loss, emptiness, madness, self-pity (at times), and hope.

Though the story is told from Toru’s PoV but it was the girls i.e. Naoko and Midori that won my heart. Both girls represent the extreme ends of spectrum. While Naoko despite having everything depicts the downfall of life, Midori after having a difficult childhood and teen years shines like a bright ray of hope. And what an experience it was live these two lives through Toru. It gave me goose bumps.

Murakami also beautifully depicts the modernization of Japan and effect of West on Japan in those days. Younger generation just wanted to break free themselves from old culture and dwell in this new and fast way of life where relationships had shorter life span than the ripples on water. Depression, unhappiness, anxiety driving people insane and finally ending their life.

It was an emotional roller coaster ride which I think everyone should experience at least once.
Profile Image for oyshik.
207 reviews656 followers
July 13, 2021
I want to share my thought and opinions but I'm just too shy. 🌝


[reading update: 100% ]

Quote:{76-100%}


1. What a terrible thing it is to wound someone you really care for-and do it so unconsciously.

2. Just remember, life is a box of chocolates.

3. No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.

4. Letters are just pieces of paper. Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay; keep them, and what vanishes will vanish.



[reading update: 76% ]

Quote:{35-76%}



1. The dead will always be dead, but we have to go on living.

2. Just speak your mind honestly. That's the best thing. It may hurt a little sometimes and someone may get upset...........but in the long run, it's for the best.

3. When your feelings build up and harden and die inside, then you're in big trouble.

4. The years 19 and 20 are a crucial stage in the maturation of character, and if you allow yourself to become warped when you're that age, it'll cause you pain when you're older

5. Overwhelmed to the point where I saw myself as an inferior specimen, a clumsy excuse for a human being who could only have negative thoughts about her because of my own warped and filthy mind.

6.The trick to teaching children is not to praise them too much.

7. No matter what we said, people would believe what they wanted to believe.

8. People are strange when you're a stranger.





[reading update: 35% ]

Quote:{16%-35%}

1. Nobody likes being alone that much. I don't go out of my way to make friends, that's all. It just leads to disappointment.

2. When I speak out honestly everybody thinks I'm kidding or play-acting. When that happens, I feel like everything's such a pain.

3. We are in here not to correct the deformation but to accustom ourselves to it: that one of our problems was our inability to recognize and accept our own deformities.

4. A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do but what he should do.

5. I’d love to cook a stew for you but I have no pot.
I’d love to knit a scarf for you, but I have no wool.
I’d love to write a poem for you, but I have no pen.

It's called "I Have Nothing."




[reading update: 16% ]

Quote:


1. Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.

2. We forged straight ahead, as if our walking were a religious ritual meant to heal our wounded spirits.

3. He was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years. “That’s the only kind of book I can trust,”

4. If you read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

5. It must be hard to pass your twentieth birthday alone.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,508 reviews30.9k followers
November 6, 2018
‘death is not the opposite of life, but an innate part of it.’

imagine you are standing in the middle of the road. to the left is the past, lined with death. to the right is the future, paved with life. sometimes we become so focused on choosing one way over the other that we forget how interconnected the two are, that we cant go in one direction without having previously come from the other.

there are a lot of themes/components to this novel (so much so that each deserve their own review), but the one that most profoundly resonated with me was murakami’s ability to convey what it means to be broken by heartache and how to cling onto life; how you can be in love with the past, but also drawn to a provocative glimpse of the future.

this story so thoughtfully depicts how throughout life we accumulate scars, we cry from pain, we mourn the loss of a loved one, we get lost and feel crippling loneliness, and maybe we heal with some regret. sometimes our suffering makes us stronger, and sometimes it doesnt. occasionally it robs us of all that is good and eventually breaks us. but even the damaged can remember, even the broken can hope. so that one day we are able to look back on those memories, even if they are painful, and we can also look forward, hoping for brighter days even when it seems hopeless.

we can remember. we can hope.
and we can discover reasons to live.

ps. john, you are the reason murakami is now in my life. so, thank you.

4 stars
Profile Image for Liene.
94 reviews1,641 followers
February 6, 2022
No.
Absolutely not.
I now live in terror of anyone who gave this book more than 1 star.
Where to even begin?
The main character of this book - if he can be said to even be a character when for the vast majority of the book his internal thoughts and emotional journey are entirely absent leaving the reader to wonder whether he is, in fact, a human being - is alarmingly callous, misogynistic, and dull, while somehow being regarded by all other characters as kind, thoughtful, and incredibly interesting. The only explanation I can think of for this response from the other (notably female) characters is that he is the most painfully obvious author-insert wish-fulfillment vehicle ever written, which makes everything else about what happens in the book that much more alarming.
Because, if one is reading this as an exercise in wish-fulfillment, then the harborer of those wishes must be Murakami himself and, if that is, in fact, the case, then I am terrified.
The main character, who is largely incapable of thoughts or feelings (or, at least, those are not shared with the reader if he possesses them), when he does have a thought it is about a woman's body/beauty, and when he does have a feeling it's about wanting to use that beauteous body for his own sexual satisfaction.
This is ostensibly a tragic love story, but the main character does not reflect on any part of the person who is the object of his love and desire OTHER than her physical appearance. He believes that he is being faithful to her because his numerous other sexual encounters mean nothing to him. So, the fact that he treats a great many other women as objects is meant to redeem these exploits because he's not been emotionally unfaithful? What a guy!
There are numerous other DEEPLY troubling passages, conversations, scenes, and acts in the book, which are spoilery for the plot. But, I hope you do not ever learn what they are because to learn of them you would have to read the book, which I sincerely wish to discourage you from ever doing.
The fact that this book is as lauded as it is will be keeping me up at night for some time.
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