Haruki Murakami fans discussion

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Character development

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message 1: by John (last edited Sep 03, 2013 10:42AM) (new)

John (johnred) | 48 comments Hi everyone!

A few months ago, I read 1Q84 -- it was my first book by Murakami. I really loved it...now, I'm reading Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and I'm worried that I'm having a little trouble getting engaged with the story.

In 1Q84, we pretty much learn the characters' entire life stories and deepest dreams. This is a big contrast to Hardboiled Wonderland -- I am at the 50% mark now, and we still know almost nothing about any of the characters.

I don't intend this as a criticism, because obviously they are very different types of stories. But I think it may be a factor in my relative lack of enthusiasm with Hardboiled Wonderland.

So what I'm wondering is: how should I go forward after I finish Hardboiled? Is the lack of characterization more typical of Murakami's work than the detailed treatment in 1Q84? I had been planning on checking out Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next, but now I'm not sure. Maybe Kafka on the Shore would be better suited to me...?


message 2: by Jean (new)

Jean (otakumom) At first I had the same reaction as you did and almost gave up on it myself yesterday. I just finished read 1Q84 not that long ago as well. It took me awhile to get into it because I really couldn't get a handle on what was going on and this was really far into the book but eventually it made sense.

This does require endurance and is not like his other work that I've read so far. But I was glad I made it. It started to make more sense towards the end.


message 3: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey | 80 comments 1Q84 was also my first Murakami book, and I had similar feelings about HBW. I found the kind of character development that I liked in 1Q84 in Windup bird chronicle, wild sheep chase, and dance, dance dance - all of which I heartily recommend.


message 4: by John (new)

John (johnred) | 48 comments Thanks Jean & Jeffrey! That's good to hear -- I will forge ahead :)


message 5: by Jean (new)

Jean (otakumom) Let us know how you make out, John! :)


message 6: by Ranee (new)

Ranee | 67 comments If you are into character development, go for Norwegian Wood. it centers not on magic realism hence its strength is on its characters.
In hardboiled, i enjoyed the seemingly ambiguous take on the different worlds of each character. The man without the shadow is really boring in the first half but you have to hang on because the second half becomes more exciting. And i bet right now, you are itching to know how are these two connected, well, i will not spoil you! Haha.


message 7: by John (new)

John (johnred) | 48 comments And i bet right now, you are itching to know how are these two connected, well, i will not spoil you! Haha.

Yeah! Just the other day I got to the part where you find out that (view spoiler)

So yeah, maybe I was just having a stressful week and that's why I was having trouble getting into it. Enjoying it more now.


message 8: by Jean (last edited Sep 06, 2013 11:52AM) (new)

Jean (otakumom) John wrote: "And i bet right now, you are itching to know how are these two connected, well, i will not spoil you! Haha.

Yeah! Just the other day I got to the part where you find out that ..."


That was the turning point for me too. It's so hard to explain without spoilers.

The beginning wasn't easy to get into but I truly feel that the struggle made latter part mean so much more.

I don't know if I'm making any sense; it's so hard for me to articulate it.


message 9: by Blane Worley (new)

Blane Worley | 4 comments This is so contrary to how I see the novel. For me, the shadow world in The End of the World is what MAKES this story my favorite story ever. The feeling I get when I imagine that world, so bright and snowy and dreary; when I imagine the library and the skeletons, dark and silent, yet comfortable with the one fire; when I imagine the one-dimensional people and the narrator trying his best to develop their personalities, to draw out of them a soul, a foregone shadow, I can't help but cringe in comfy nostalgia. I feel like the shadow world is outside time and space, but a part of an ancient, imaginary past at the same time.

But I understand that we're susceptible to our first impressions of what we read, that we imagine a setting with our first skim, and that we unintentionally cling to that first setting throughout the remainder of the story. So I guess I just imagined it perfectly for ME as I read it. Though, the map in the beginning was a good thing to refer back to. That definitely helped me conjure a clear picture.

I don't know. Each narrative was so intriguing to me. Hard-Boiled is definitely my favorite book, and how the two stories connect is perfect.


message 10: by Jean (new)

Jean (otakumom) I enjoyed both but really had a hard time getting my bearings in the beginning. Once I got it, I really enjoyed and definitely want to re-read it again though I'm currently in the digesting period at the moment.

Your comment inspires me to pick it up again sooner rather than later.
Thanks, Blane.


message 11: by Adam (new)

Adam | 21 comments Hey, John. Murakami's books won't satisfy most readers who come looking for what I assume they think of as a more traditional form of character development. In other words, those who seek a continuous chronological development in the character's actions, words and thoughts. As you no doubt have already discovered, he leaves back story and resolution either unaddressed or unresolved, most notoriously in The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Especially in the earlier works (before Norwegian Wood) back story is filled in with the main character's memories, which results in a realistically elliptical depiction of time as it is experienced. It's not that character development is absent, only that it is presented through narratives that cling to the present and are periodically led astray by associative reminiscences, much as when we recall a particular experience because of its impact on or relevance to our life at the present moment, not necessarily only because it happened recently. Murakami resists narrative structures that have events conform to a tidy chronological progression, opting instead for the flashback and the story within a story. It's not that books written in a more traditional way aren't as good, just that with Murakami you have to do a bit more inferring. I find that he usually gives you what you need to know to make sense of things and to want to keep reading. Personally I find the eddying logic of his stories to be spot on and greatly absorbing. I would probably suggest Wind Up Bird if you're looking for the kind of traditional character development as I've described it. Lots of back story given throughout and the character has a clear goal that he attempts to achieve, though people complain justifiably that the book leaves a lot unresolved. Kafka is the story of a teenage kid who runs away and must conquer his demons and overcome a predetermined fate. The protagonist, Kafka, has all the marks of a traditionally developed character, with internal and external obstacles to overcome, but those obstacles are so shifting and symbolic in nature that you may wonder how it is this really lends to the character's growth. 1Q84 is the one book by Murakami that's been translated into English, besides the non-fiction, that I haven't read, so I'm afraid I can't factor it into my recommendation. Try Wind Up Bird. But don't expect to be satisfied with the ending after 600+ pages!


message 12: by J (new)

J | 13 comments Blane wrote: "For me, the shadow world in The End of the World is what MAKES this story my favorite story ever. The feeling I get when I imagine that world, so bright and snowy and dreary; when I imagine the library and the skeletons, dark and silent, yet comfortable with the one fire; when I imagine the one-dimensional people and the narrator trying his best to develop their personalities, to draw out of them a soul, a foregone shadow, I can't help but cringe in comfy nostalgia. I feel like the shadow world is outside time and space, but a part of an ancient, imaginary past at the same time."

With you on this! Love the shadow world in HBW, the novel is one of my favourites and this makes me want to re-read again!


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