Book #2: A Wild Sheep Chase (1982)

aka: 羊をめぐる冒険 (Hitsuji wo meguru bōken)
language: Japanese translated to English
author: Haruki Murakami
length: 300 pages, nearabout
finished on: 13/1/11

book cover

Again, I’m sort of going through a trying-to-read-stuff-from-Japan phase, so I picked this book up the other week, since I’d been recommended Murakami as a Good Author by someone. And I think that’s not a bad label to put on him, overall. The book was a fun read, and when I was in the right mood for it it became a real page-turner.

It’s set in Tokyo and Hokkaido (which sounds cold!), talks about the state of postwar Japan a bit, somewhat similar to Drunken Angel, and most importantly, is often about loneliness and boredom, two themes that I’m quite receptive to in current times. So I liked it for those reasons.

I didn’t like, however, the way it got a bit incomprehensible towards the end, where weird shit starts happening. People in the world of this story seem to have magical powers for some reason, and the titular sheep, which doesn’t show up in the end (if you hadn’t seen the spoiler warning at the top of the page already, sucks to be you doesn’t it…?), seems to be more of a metaphor. To me that sounds contrived. To put it another way, I was a bit dissatisfied with the ending… he’s been told to do whatever by these mysterious agents of “the Boss”, but it seems like they’re trying to tell him something about himself rather than trying him to get them to do something for them, because he doesn’t manage it in the end. Oh I don’t know. I was more just feeling sorry for myself by that point because I was lonely like he was.

There’s also a strange aversion to names in the book, which is lampshaded at a couple of points, so I imagine it’s something idiosyncratic to the book rather than Murakami, but again I’m not sure. I suppose he’s trying to make some kind of point, but I’m not really in the mood to try and decipher all that, frankly. I just found it funny that the only character that got a name was the cat – very vividly described, might I add, as old and decrepit in a fine example of the author’s prowess. So yes, I liked it, and I liked the author’s style, but I’m aware that there were a couple of extra levels to the book that I don’t want to bother trying to understand, and I’m (therefore?) not sure I liked it when it got surreal.

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