M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (1982, trans. from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum, 352 pages)

A Wild Sheep Chase is the eighth book by Haruki Murakami  (1949) that I have now read.   Obviously I like and admire his work a lot.    It is the third book in what is called The Rat Trilogy which begins with Pinball which was  followed by Hear the Wind Sing (both of which are sadly out of print-there is chatter they are coming back in print soon-they can be found on Amazon.com at times).   Dance, Dance, Dance which came out in 1988 is sort of a continuation of the plot lines of the Rat Trilogy.

I really enjoyed this book.    It is just flat out a lot of fun.   It was recently the subject of discussion and review by several readers on a read along hosted by In the Spring it is The Dawn.   The posters there covered some of the deeper themes of the book so I will just talk briefly about the book.

The book is kind of a take off of the detective story complete with a visit from a sinister stranger who sends our unnamed central character on a quest for a mysterious wild sheep.    Along the way he meets and has a romance with a prostitute with beautiful ears.    We also learn a lot about the history of sheep in Japan which I found very interesting.     Our hero meets a number of strange and interesting characters.

   There are hints at an evocation of Japanese animism  in the use of the sheep imagery but Murakami does not take it too seriously and neither should we.  There are references to untoward human-sheep encounters so we know it is OK just to enjoy the book without a great deal of thought as to the symbolic meaning of the sheep.     There are many references to American cultural icons.   

I liked A Wild Sheep Chase a really lot as do almost all who post on it.     If you are just getting into the Japanese novel or looking for a first work to read by Murakami I would suggest either After Dark or Norwegian Wood.   

A link to some of my other Japanese reviews can be found here

Mel u


leeswammes said...

This is my favorite Murakami novel (and I've read quite a few). It's so enjoyable.

Diane said...

This one sounds like a good one. I've only read one by Murakami so far After Dark, but I liked it a lot. Great review.

Nora said...

This sounds really interesting. I have yet to read a book by a Japanese author but I'm thinking I might have to at some point :).
Btw, is there a way of replying to comments without going to the commentators blog? Well I couldn't figure it out so here's my reply to your comment :) :

I also wasn't sure about the main character. She was interesting but seemed so distant from her own children that I felt sorry for them. I think if we liked her too much the ending would have been hard to swallow. In parts of the book I must admit the writing style itself was practically more interesting than the story (and that's saying something).
I'm so glad you enjoyed my post :) That's a pretty big complement :)

Suko said...

This sounds like a fun book to read next for the JLC4. Thanks for a terrific review!

Charley said...

After reading your post, I realized that the last Murakami I read - Kafka on the Shore - was in 2008. A Wild Sheep Chase is on my list, but I think I need to wait until the right time.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I started my Murakami adventures with Norwegian Wood, which I thought was absolutely fantastic - so I second you on that one!

However, I think this one, while being a lot of fun, was just a little too bizarre for me. I agree with what you said about not spending too much time on the symbolism in the book, but unfortunately, that's what I did. In retrospect, I think it might've taken a lot away from the book!

Glad you enjoyed it - I'm still to read Dance Dance Dance, but think my next Murakami will be Kafka On The Shore.

JoV said...

Glad you like it. I just shortlist some of J-lit 4 read yesterday, so hope to compare notes for the coming month!

Book Bird Dog said...

Mel, you've encouraged me to finish the book. It's still on my desk waiting for a quiet time to enjoy it! My Sunday Salon.

petekarnas said...

Good review - very enjoyable book, although I liked Dance, Dance, Dance a little bit more. Can't wait until next year when (hopefully) there might be an English translation of 1Q84.

Bellezza said...

I like how you said this, "it is OK just to enjoy the book without a great deal of thought as to the symbolic meaning of the sheep" because that is what I had to do. I could not come up with a clear cut political image as some reviewers did, nor anything else. Possible, it represents whatever is the reader's Achilles heel. At any rate, I, too, loved this book. But, it might not be the best Murakami to pick up if someone is reading him for the first time.

Bellezza said...

p.s. This header is great!!!

Novroz said...

Great review :) I haven't read this one yet, tho I have read Dance dance dance. I will read this one day.

ds said...

I adore Murakami, but have yet to read this one. Onto the list it goes, perhaps in time for JLC 4. Will keep your insights about the sheep in mind. Thank you.

parrish lantern said...

Just finished, The Elephant Vanishes, which I enjoyed. Have you tried Underground this is a fascinating book & you might like to know you can get Pinball 1973 as a PDF file from the Murakami resource site www,exorcising-ghosts.co.uk. Its a good place for Murakami info