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Wind-Up Sheep Chase At The End Of The World
March 2, 2013 10:13 AM   Subscribe

A new book by author Haruki Murakami will be released this April, his publishers have announced. This will be his first in three years since 1Q84 (in the running for, but then passed up, for the Nobel Prize). Although not even the title of the novel is yet known, this hasn't stopped fans from speculating on what it will be about - with or without the aid of bingo.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (26 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
this hasn't stopped fans from speculating on what it will be about

Odds are good that at some point the protagonist will cook himself noodles and drink a cold beer alone whilst watching a baseball game.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:16 AM on March 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


Well, I feel safer now that torturing cats (according to the bingo) isn't likely. I have loved his books, but drew the line with Kafka on the Shore.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:16 AM on March 2, 2013


Cutty Sark whisky and handjobs may be involved, experts predict.
posted by figurant at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2013


Oh, and when I want to read a great Murakami book, I can always pick up David Mitchell.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:19 AM on March 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I predict it will be about jazz music, cats, a slightly creepy fascination with the female anatomy, quiet characters moving aimlessly in the world and dreams. I also predict that I will be annoyed at how long the english translation take, buy it and enjoy it and that I will say a prayer tonight that it is shorter/better edited than 1Q84.

I am not a betting man but I'll give you extremely good odds on all of these things :)
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 10:28 AM on March 2, 2013


1Q84 (in the running for, but then passed up, for the Nobel Prize)

The Nobel Prize isn't awarded to books, it's awarded to people. If Murakami was "in the running" then (which no one but the judges actually knows) then he still is now.
posted by RogerB at 10:29 AM on March 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Murakami is always described as having a western sensibility. How does he differ from other contemporary Japanese novelists in this regard? What makes him so western that his contemporaries do not indulge in? What are other Japanese novelists doing differently?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:38 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked 1Q84, but I didn't love it. Murakami's true magnum opus was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Plus, he's (relatively) young. I'm confident he'll get the Nobel in time.
posted by chimaera at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2013


Murakami is always described as having a western sensibility. How does he differ from other contemporary Japanese novelists in this regard? What makes him so western that his contemporaries do not indulge in? What are other Japanese novelists doing differently?

This usually refers to his Western pop culture and name brand referencing, which was a lot more prominent in his earlier works than it is today. He also tends to shy away from the mainstream Japanese literary establishment. Apart from that, I'd say other modern Japanese novelists like Hitomi Kanehara, Mari Akasaka, Yoko Ogawa and Ryu Murakami (no relation) are also not prone to write about cherry blossoms and temples, either.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2013


Murakami is always described as having a western sensibility. How does he differ from other contemporary Japanese novelists in this regard? What makes him so western that his contemporaries do not indulge in? What are other Japanese novelists doing differently?

The other thing about Murakami is that he is pretty enmeshed in the 80s literary fiction stylings of Updike, Carver, and company. He's translated Carver to Japanese and has a memoir of his marathoning escapades titled "What I Talk About When I Talk about Running" in specific reference to a short story by Carver. And if you've read a lot of literary fiction, it's pretty easy to pick out the elements of the fiction that time in Murakami's writing: ambiguous dialogue, a wandering hero and plot underscored by some huge epiphany that, in the long of it, never occurs, slice-of-life realism (ie the noodles, the beer, the well), and so on.

I think an argument can be made, though, that painting Murakami like an exceptionalist fits in with the bigger narrative of Japan as weird and distant and corporate and it ignores the bigger history of literature in favor of a vaguely exoticizing Orientalism. It's arguable that Murakami also writes a lot like Kobo Abe and older European writers. I've only ever read The Woman in the Dunes but it, too, has a bunch of the same elements though it's a lot more grounded in the wish-fulfillment fantasy of Kafka and Freud where a boring, everyman who goes out into the country and everything then turns into a weird, hazy dream that ultimately resolves in an implicit change and death. You can kind of see the structure of this in Murakami's writing with some modern adaptations that move it more towards the ambiguous than the implicit.
posted by dubusadus at 11:12 AM on March 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


chimaera: "I liked 1Q84, but I didn't love it. Murakami's true magnum opus was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. "

I agree with you on 1Q84, but I think his best is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I was a little freaked out by much I loved this book—particularly as I generally hate postmodernism, or post-postmodernism, or whatever he’s got going on there. (I’m a non–English major copyeditor!)
posted by theredpen at 11:23 AM on March 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hard-Boiled Wonderland is far and away my favorite Haruki Murakami novel, and the other early-ish ones (Dance, Dance, Dance and Wild Sheep Chase) are right up there with it for me. The frustrating thing about liking Murakami, but knowing basically no Japanese, is that I can't tell if I like these books so much more than his later ones because I like his early style better, or if it's actually because I like this guy's style more than this guy's.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:34 AM on March 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Speaking of translation, what’s the average length of time before his books’ release in English? It looks like April is the Japanese release date.
posted by theredpen at 11:46 AM on March 2, 2013


Depends on the size of the tome. 1Q84, with all three volumes weighing in at just under 1,000 pages, took two years.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2013


I can't tell if I like these books so much more than his later ones because I like his early style better, or if it's actually because I like this guy's style more than this guy's.

I have to admit I love Gabriel's translations and his more natural, casual flow. But Birnbaum is a very skilled translator in his own right. The aforementioned Hard Boiled is a good example. The alternating chapters - between the two separate yet intertwined storylines - in the original Japanese had the protagonist refer to himself as boku in one and watashi in the other; two Japanese words that are the first person singular, where English just has "I". To solve this problem, Birnbaum simply used two different tenses for the two different storylines. It worked quite well without detracting any meaning from the story.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I may be mistaken ( I usually am), but I thought I read somewhere that the trilogy that comprised 1Q84 was itself the first part of a trilogy still being written by Murakami. It makes sense in that the ending to 1Q84 was so open ended. I'd like to revisit the story of Tengo and Aomame. I hope the second part of the trilogy is the book coming out in April, but I'll be happy with anything he writes. He speaks to the human condition as I experience it.
posted by Xurando at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2013


My Murakami bingo card says boiling pasta, extra-martial affair, mysterious sheep, a cat and a young woman with clairvoyant dreams.

Actually, I've felt that the English translators, Birnbaum, Gabriel and Rubin all have their own writing voice reflected in their translations and it colours the tone of the particular story just slightly but noticeably. Rubin in particular gives me the impression he adds a bit more flourish in his translations than the others.

An example of this is the short story vs novel translation of Wind-up Bird Chronicle:
When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. "I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax.
Compared to
I'm in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls. Another moment until the spaghetti is done; there I am, whistling the prelude to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra along with the FM radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music. "I hear the telephone ring but tell myself, Ignore it. Let the spaghetti finish cooking. It's almost done, and besides, Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra are coming to a crescendo.
Or this comparison of Rubin with an anonymous translator of On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning:
Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.
and
She wasn't an especially pretty woman. It wasn't that she was wearing fine clothes, either. In the back, her hair still showed how she'd slept on it; and her age must already have been close to thirty. Nonetheless, even from fifty meters away, I knew it: she is the 100 percent woman for me. From the moment her figure caught my eyes, my chest shook wildly; my mouth was parched dry as a desert.
I happen to like Rubin's writing voice more so I'm hoping he does the translations for the next one.
posted by tksh at 1:05 PM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still haven't gotten around to 1Q84, though Mrs. Ghidorah got about halfway through the first volume in Japanese before giving up. Like a lot of Japanese people I know, she wasn't crazy about it. One of the only people I know here is an English teacher who's borrowed copies of my translated versions so he could compare them. The recurring themes (to be polite) can get a bit tiresome (Sputnik Sweetheart felt like a less interesting, happy ending version of South of the Border), but I still love the way he captures how disconnected things can feel here. It can be pretty easy to slip into a life with few connections and little to no daily interaction. I prefer Murakami's version of that, where the breakdown of connections is what leads to weirdness seeping in. Sadly, in the real world, cooking pasta alone while drinking a beer and listening to the radio while your cat looks out the window only leads to eating said pasta while listening to the radio, drinking said beer while said cat looks out the window.

I'm looking forward to this book, and I'd dearly love something approaching how amazing Hard Boiled Wonderland was. My goal is to someday* (which at this rate is never) read his books in Japanese.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:48 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may not even read Murakami's new novel when it comes out. IQ84 was twice as long as it should have been; evidently no-one dares edit Murakami these days. His best novels were A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-up Bird cronicles, IMHO.
posted by Agave at 3:15 PM on March 2, 2013


The translation issue interests me a lot. Those three tksh astutely points out do have very distinct voices. I haven't read Murakami in Japanese, but I like the effect the translators have on his work. How much of the translator's own voice is present is well tempered by their dedication to being faithful to Murakami's voice, but the varying voices of the translators brings a nice breadth to his stories, and it's interesting to see their distinct interpretations of his voice. And the red threads of voice between them, I like to think anyway, give me some idea of the author's own.

Personally, I loved 1Q84, but did feel his previous two efforts - After Dark and Kafka on the Shore - were a bit of a mess. Nthing the wonderfulness of Hard Boiled, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2013


What's really significant about the upcoming Murakami is the publishing company he's tasked with releasing the work--Bungeishunju, aka "Bunshun."

Murakami's last few novels have been published through Shinchosha, a rival. Both are massive publishers with large stables of writers (many of whom publish with both companies), a fleet of well-connected editors, and many sponsored literary awards. And both are suffering due to an epic downturn in publishing, which has followed the rest of the Japanese economy into a twenty year slump.

Apparently, Murakami has long relegated his non-fiction and essays to Bungeishunju, and chosen Shinchosha for publishing novels, for the most part. The decision to publish the upcoming novel at Bungeishunju is an abrupt about-face. Understandably, editors at Bunshun are chomping at the bit, hoping for a repeat of the success of 1Q84.

>Like a lot of Japanese people I know, she wasn't crazy about it.

The thing about the English translation of 1Q84--and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as well--is that it's heavily, heavily, heavily abridged. I'd guestimate that less than 70% of the three-volume Japanese novel made it into the single-volume English translation. (Large chunks of Wind-Up were removed as well; apparently the Russian version is more complete).

Critics rarely talk about the abridging of the English versions, and Murakami and his publishers seem to give it their tacit approval. For better or worse, the English texts of these two novels are shorter (and, some might argue, tighter) shadows of the originals.

If you think the English translation of 1Q84 was a long (though interesting) slog, as many critics do, try the Japanese original for size. Book one is quick moving and suspenseful; book two starts strong and then drags. I gave up after the second book and didn't read book three. Seriously, book two is like "Look Homeward Angel" before Maxwell Perkins took an axe to it; it's a circular, repetitive read.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:49 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I gave up on 1Q84 as well. I consider Wind-Up Bird Murakami's magnum opus, and it's a mess, but in a good way; 1Q84 is a mess in a bad way. But then again his previous novel before that, After Dark, is very short and IMO the perfect length for the story it tells. Hopefully, he's gotten "the epic" off his chest so he can just start writing good stories again.
posted by simen at 5:58 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember a J Lit class where our professor went on a lengthy tirade about Murakami's monotony. He was not sure if it was deliberately artful, or just boring. We read some of his nonfiction essays and yeah, he's just boring.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:24 PM on March 2, 2013


Sadly, in the real world, cooking pasta alone while drinking a beer and listening to the radio while your cat looks out the window only leads to eating said pasta while listening to the radio, drinking said beer while said cat looks out the window.

Quoted for deep, insightful truth.

I've always loved Hardboiled Wonderland especially, too. More than any of his other novels it feels isolated and otherworldly. I read it in January in New England in the front room of my college dining hall, while most of the students and faculty were at home for the holidays, during a record breaking cold snap and series of blizzards. I'd like to reread it now but I fear I'll sully my memories of it by reading it in a situation that isn't quite so completely perfect.

Regarding the bingo card, ear fetish is the one I always think of. All those folds. I guess it makes sense.
posted by telegraph at 6:25 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia page on Windup Bird says that an entire chapter is missing, along with bits and pieces from other chapters.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:34 PM on March 2, 2013


Murakami is known to work closely with his English translators so there might be a meta thing where he recommends a particular translator to convey a certain style. I'm just guessing though.

IMO, 1Q84 and Wind-up Bird could have used even tighter editing above what was already shaved. I like his short stories much more than his epic sheep chases pretty much for this reason. The whimsical and magic surrealism works well in the short, condensed form. Drawn out into a tome, it feels meandering and repetitive. Here's hoping the upcoming book is on the short side.

(And please, no more cults or ear fetish. I've had enough!)
posted by tksh at 8:55 PM on March 2, 2013


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