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Norwegian Wood: Wood You?

For her first book review for CairoScene, Anam Sufi presents Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. One of her favourites, there's much more to this short read than meets the eye...

So I thought I would kick start my arrival on this cyber blend of fun and fiestas by talking about one of my favourite books of all time: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. For any Beetles fan out there, spoiler alert: it’s not a book about the song, but don’t be disheartened so easily. 

Haruki Murakami is alive and kicking proof of present-day genius in the literary world. Belonging to the realm of postmodernist writers, his subject matter generally tends to pick and peel at the imagination, triggering ambiguous and idiosyncratic responses in each individual reader. Basically, what that means is, upon completing a Murakami, you’re usually left with a feeling of  ‘wow, that was incredible!’ but if someone asked you to tell them what it was about you’d draw a blank and really have no idea where to begin. 

Having said this, the novel in question, Norwegian Wood, is probably his most grounded work insofar as an easy-to-follow plotline goes. It deals with the themes of love, abandonment, and sexuality, and while you might be sitting there rolling your eyes thinking ‘Here we go again, another one of your Mills & Boons-style rubbish,’ - it’s everything but that. 

The plotline follows the life of a “fly-on-the-wall” type character, Toru Watanabe, who upon hearing the Beetle’s song, is instantly taken back to his college years in Tokyo. His reminisces tell the story of two different relationships that he establishes with two women who might be thought to be polar opposites; Naoko (the lost ex-girlfriend of his late best friend, who has a very ghostly feel to her) and Midori (the epitome of life and energy, bursting with youth and sexuality). As his relationships with the two women progress, the novel takes on the responsibility of becoming more than just another tale of romance. It delves into the sub-categories of grief, existentialism, platonic relationships, morality, and much more. 

What I love most about this book is the way in which Murakami captured the essence of his characters so convincingly. A short read, I found that there are few other texts that I have come across that have been able to present the characters so wholly.

If you are looking for something easy to read, I would definitely recommend Norwegian Wood. That’s not to say it’s a light read (disclaimer: observe the difference). The subject matter is thoroughly thought-provoking and reflective, so be prepped for that. Guy or girl, this one should most definitely make its way onto your literary “booket list” (oh yes, I just said that). I think I have rambled on long enough now and if you aren’t convinced yet, then you’re a lost cause who just wasted about two minutes of their life reading the pixels on your computer.

PS: There is a film adaptation available, but read the book first, don’t be a joker.