Diversity · Japanese · Japanese Literature · review · Review Copy · Translated work · translations

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 (The Rat #1-2) by Haruki Murakami, Ted Goossen (Translation)


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Bond Street Books
Source: Publisher

As a preface to Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami the narrator says:

If it’s art of literature you are interested in, I suggest you read the Greeks. Pure art exists only in slave-owning societies. The Greeks has slaves to till their fields, prepare their meals, and row their galleys while they lay about on sun-splashed Mediterranean beaches, composing poems and grappling with mathematical equations. That’s what art is.

If you’re the sort of guy who raids the refrigerators of kitchens at three o’clock in the morning, you can only write accordingly.

That’s who I am.

This bind-up of Haruki’s first two novellas gives readers the chance to experience for themselves the wordsmithery of a young and (one supposes) more idealistic Murakami. There is an irreverence in his work that is dazzling. His refusal to pander to previously set standards of ‘literature’ is also intoxicating. As the above excerpt proves, Murakami set out to write a story in a way that only he could tell and with Hear the Wind Sing he succeeded. There is an energy to the work that his later work lacks. At this point in his career, he has no idea what writing is and he’s playing by the ear and writing largely for his own self and this comes across loud and clear.

“So you don’t read books by living writers?”

“No, I don’t see the point.”

“Why not?”

“I guess because I feel like I can forgive dead people,” I said.

Murakami’s two characters gain flesh and meaning in Hear the Wind Sing. Murakami captures the fleeting essence of the friendship between the two men and their bartender who seems to have as much of a role as they do. I loved how simple the story is. Perhaps it is this very quality of the story that makes it have a more profound impact that something more complicated and convoluted.

Pinball 1973 didn’t resonate with me as much Hear the Wind SIng because the pacing is slower and the focus more determinedly trained on the unnamed narrator’s dead lover. Even the pinball obsession comes in largely as an afterthought. However, the story did speak to the transience of life and the people who populate yours. I appreciated this look into Murakami’s psyche. I feel like these two stories are largely responsible for the kind of writer he has become in his later years and if one were to analyze these stories in any depth, we’d see seedlings of his future stories planted here and there among the narrative.

This is a good place to start for those new to Murakami. The weird factor is there but it was in its nascent stage at this point, it won’t weird out the newer reader. Happy reading.


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