Murakami, Tokyo blues, and the novel that made it eternal – La Tercera

In his opinion, what he tried to do was not ordinary literature. For his fifth novel, Haruki Murakami decided to do something different. “I have no interest in writing long novels in a realistic style.but I decided that, if only once, I was going to write a realistic novel. tokyo blues it was just an experiment”, he said in an interview with the Spanish morning newspaper El País, in 2007.

Until then, Murakami was a Japanese writer who had published some successful books, such as Pinball 1973 (1980) or Wild Ram Hunting (1982), but with that “experiment” called tokyo blues (Norwegian Wood), everything changed, and he became a famous author on a planetary level. To this day, every October his name sounds on social networks as one of the readers’ favorite candidates for the Nobel Prize, but in Sweden too popular writers are not very popular.

Little friend of the interviews, and with a rather reserved character, in that talk with El País Murakami took time to remember it. “Personally, I like that novel, but I haven’t read it again for almost 20 years. At the moment, I have no intention of writing something similar again. I have no interest in the past. I can no longer feel interested in the so-called realistic style because if I write a novel like that, I end up getting bored.”

It was in September 1987 when bookstores received the novel. The retrospective story of Toru Watanabe, who thanks to a song by The Beatles – precisely Norwegian Woodfrom the fundamental album Rubber Soul (1966)– recalls his youth at university studying theater, a career that really does not excite him much and that he chose “almost by chance”. They occupy his memories, especially the relationship he had with Naoko, a sensitive girl who had been the girlfriend of his best friend, Kizuki. After his suicide, the girl began a relationship with Toru.

But the Japanese like drama. Toru and Naoko do not have an easy relationship. She spends some time in a psychiatric hospital and Watanabe goes to see her. Meanwhile, Midori Kobayashi also appears, extorverted and vital, who removes the young man’s foundations. There begins a plot that Murakami knows how to season with a lot of pop culture and western literary references. Add to that a taste for nostalgia.

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Why tokyo blues did you like it so much? The literary critic responds Camilo Marks Alonso: “I think that apart from recovering the nineteenth-century tradition of extensive, complex narration, full of incidents, it introduces us to the world of Murakami, perhaps one of the few narrators today that can be read by anyone who is fond of reading, without a master’s degree, doctorates or post-doctorates in literature: prose of the highest quality and entertainment in abundance”.

Marcelo Gonzalez, a doctor of literature and a UC academic, argues: “I think it has captivated audiences around the world due to its love theme. It is a deeply romantic novel, representing the best and worst of teenage love. From there, it deals with universal themes such as loss, pain, resilience and survival in this type of situation. And those are emotions that everyone can or relates to, since they are part of the basic experiences that human beings must go through to grow as a subject.”

On your side, John Paul Iglesiasjournalist and academic, very knowledgeable about Murakami’s work, indicates: “The novel in its Japanese version is titled Norwegian Wood or more precisely the Japanese translation of the Beatles song. That gives a bit of the tone of the novel, which was translated into Spanish tokyo blues. It is a novel with a romantic and nostalgic tone, a novel of growth, of learning, of youth. And that added to the fact that, if we simplify it, it is the story of a love that could not be, explains in part the fame that it achieved. Furthermore, like all of Murakami’s books – although perhaps more so in this case – it is heavily laden with popular culture, such as references to the Beatles. I don’t have the figures, but I have no doubt that it must be Murakami’s most widely read and popular novel published in Spanish, despite the fact that it was not the first translated into Spanish. The first one released by Anagrama –which originally had Murakami in its catalogue– was Wild Ram Huntingwhich is a novel that is much more Murakami or “murakamian” –if it is possible to use that term- than tokyo blues”.

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Perhaps because of the massive tokyo blues It is worth asking yourself, will this be the best gateway to your work? The experts consulted are inclined to think that. Camilo Marks, for example, indicates: “I don’t think it’s a gateway to Murakami’s world, since any of his titles-Kafka on the shore, Dream, only dream, The hunting of the wild ram, etc. -, they serve to enter that world that is so literary, and, at the same time, so strange, although understandable for us”.

“No way,” says Marcelo González. Murakami’s literary world is very different from what can be found in tokyo blues, so I would recommend it as a later reading, after one has read other important works by him. In fact, legend has it that Haruki Murakami was challenged by a friend that he couldn’t write a realistic novel and that’s how it came about. tokyo blues. Inspired or based on the magic mountain by Mann, is a unique work within the corpus of the Japanese author”.

Juan Paulo Iglesias thinks: “It could be a gateway, because many of those who read it or will read it in the future will surely want to read more of Murakami’s books, but it is definitely not a novel that sums up Murakami’s style well. It is probably the least ‘murakamian’ of the Murakami novels. It has Murakami’s tone and tendency to tell stories of characters alone, but it lacks the ‘fantastic realism’ component that definitively characterizes his style, that mix between the harsh realism of contemporary society –Murakami has always been a great admirer of Raymond Carver and his dirty realism– and the fantastic component that defines his literature. books like The Wild Ram Hunt, Kafka on the Shore –probably his best novel– or the most recent Commander’s Death they are more in the style of Murakami. who pass from tokyo blues to other Murakami books, they will discover a much more complex and resourceful writer.”

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Murakami, Tokyo blues, and the novel that made it eternal – La Tercera