October 31, 1997 books of the times

'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle': A Nightmarish Trek v History's web

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE by Haruki Murakami 611 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95.
Haruki Murakami's latest novel, ``The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,'' is a insanity ambitious publication that not just recapitulates the themes, motifs and also preoccupations the his previously work, but likewise aspires come invest that material with weighty mythic and also historical significance. Yet while Murakami seems to have tried to write a publication with the esthetic heft and vision of, say, Don DeLillo's ``Underworld'' or Salman Rushdie's ``The Moor's critical Sigh,'' he is just intermittently successful.

``Wind-Up Bird'' has actually some an effective scenes the antic comedy and also some wrecking scenes of historic power, however such moments perform not include up come a satisfying, completely fashioned novel. In trying come depict a fragmented, chaotic and also ultimately unknowable world, Murakami has written a fragmentary and also chaotic book.

like so many of Murakami's previous stories, ``Wind-Up Bird'' is component detective story, component Bildungsroman, part fairy tale, part science-fiction-meets-Lewis Carroll. Like ``A Wild lamb Chase'' and ``Dance run Dance,'' it features a an extremely ordinary male as its hero _ a passive, affectless type of man with a lowly job and also even lower expectations. Favor those earlier novels, it sends out its hero turn off on a long, strange wild goose chase that turns right into a kind of Kafkaesque nightmare.

The difference in between ``Wind-Up Bird'' and Murakami's earlier publications is that this volume not only limns that is hero's initiatives to achieve self-understanding, but also aspires to examine Japan's burden of historical guilt and also place that in a post-World war II world. The mechanical cry that the wind-up bird that the book's hero sporadically hears is the sound of background winding the spring, the setting into movement of occasions that will reverberate v public and private lives.

``Wind-Up Bird'' apparently flourished out the an earlier Murakami story referred to as ``The Wind-Up Bird and also Tuesday's Woman'' (which can be discovered in the 1993 repertoire ``The Elephant Vanishes''), and also its beginnings perhaps define the narrative's aer construction, the impression it offers of being jerry-built out of an arbitrarily accretion of episodes and digressions.

The central story comes to one Toru Okada, a gofer in ~ a Tokyo legislation firm who has actually recently quit his job. Toru leaves his residence one day come look for his absent cat and suddenly finds himself thrown right into a collection of bizarre adventures. Not lengthy after the cat disappears, Toru's wife Kumiko vanishes as well, and he is required to reassess the state of your marriage, also as he starts to try to uncover her.

In the meantime, Toru meets a collection of curious people: might Kasahara, a troubled teen-ager that feels responsible for her boyfriend's fatality in a motorcycle accident; Malta Kano, a psychic who provides prophecies about Toru's missing cat; Malta's sister, Creta, who claims that she to be raped by Kumiko's brother, Noboru Wataya; lieutenant Mamiya, a soldier who says he experienced a guy being skinned alive; Nutmeg Akasaka, a secret healer whose husband was violently murdered; and also Nutmeg's son, Cinnamon, a handsome young male who stopped talking as soon as he to be a boy.

strange coincidences attach these people. We find out that Nutmeg's father, a veterinary in Manchuria, has the very same strange mark on his cheek as Toru. We learn that Toru and also Creta have had actually a comparable experience through prostitution. And we learn that various human being who have actually heard the secret wind-up bird have involved unhappy ends.

Murakami provides these odd correspondences to build narrative tension, while in ~ the very same time manipulating his assorted subplots come raise a slew of various other questions. What duty does Kumiko's sinister brother, Noboru, have actually in her disappearance? Is Noboru's political career somehow linked to bloody events that arisen in Manchuria so plenty of decades ago? and what is walk on at the secret estate down the alley indigenous Toru's house?

while Murakami teases the reader through the suggestion that the answers to these questions will finish his jigsaw-puzzle story, it transforms out that he is equally intent on pelting the reader with portentous red herrings. No doubt he method to subvert the conventional detective story and, in doing so, indicate that the people is a mysterious place, that the lines in between reality and also fantasy space porous, that reason and also logic space useless devices in an incomprehensible world.

In this, Murakami plainly succeeds, yet for reader it's a Pyrrhic victory: for most of us, arts is supposed to do something more than just mirror the confusions that the world. Worse, ``Wind-Up Bird'' often seems for this reason messy the its refusal of closure feels much less like one artistic choice than basic laziness, a reluctance on the part of the author to run his manuscript v the typewriter (or computer) one critical time.

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