Publishing Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pages: 256 pages
The Premise: From the literary genius, Haruki Murakami, comes his first two written works, newly translated and put together in a combined novel: Hear the Wing Sing and Pinball, 1973. The first story, Wind, follows an unnamed narrator and his interactions with his friend, Rat and the second story, Pinball, follows Rat. Both stories deal with themes of obsession, loneliness and also what I would like to categorize as human longing. These two novels are also prequels to A Wild Sheep Chase - which is considered by some literary critics, can be seen all together as the "Rat Trilogy."
My overall thoughts and review: This is the second time I've read something written by Murakami and translated by Goossen (you can read my full review for The Strange Library here!) and I have to say once again, to begin with, that Gossen did a wonderful job translating the stories. I really felt that he accurately conveyed what Murakami wrote and it just carried the "essence" of Murakami throughout the text. When I first was reading Murakami, I searched EVERYWHERE for these early novels and was quite puzzled at the fact that they were not available in North America. So when I heard that they were releasing together and translated by a professor that I've had the pleasure of working with, I was over the moon excited.
My favorite part of the entire book has got to be the introduction. In the introduction, Murakami offers the reader an insider look on what inspired Murakami to write. My favorite passage was definitely when he was at a baseball game and realized "I think I can write a novel" - this line was so profound and definitely stuck with me throughout the entire text. The way he described realizing wanting to write as a "sensation" definitely resonated with me. Murakami also goes on to speak about his writing process and it was so intriguing about writing first in English and then "translating" into Japanese (xv). I have been working a little bit on translation studies and language from a previous class I took last semester and this introduction has definitely struck a chord with me because it offers so much insight into the translation process.
Anyways, I am getting sidetracked and not offering my thoughts fully on the two stories. I have loved Murakami for a very long time and I think it can be said that he is easily my favorite contemporary writer. Seeing the "beginnings" of his writing style develop in these two early novels was definitely something I enjoyed and something off-putting at the same time. Not in a bad way of course, but it allowed me to see fully how his style has developed over time. It also made me extremely appreciative of where his writing style has come to now. I really enjoyed that Murakami used an unnamed narrator and it was so easy to "slip" into the mind of the protagonist and follow along. I also really enjoyed how mysterious the character Rat was at some moments, and how other moments, he was like an open book. I mentioned in the premise that he touches on themes of obsession, loneliness and my personal favorite: human longing. For human longing, I really enjoyed how he touched on how desire was intertwined with loneliness and sometimes it is just simply "longing" for that sake and not necessarily a particular individual. He also touches on themes of change/changing and how it moves quite rapidly with time and I think that is fitting for the book because the two novels offer an insider look on how Murakami's writing has changed over time, but has also remained the same in many ways over time. This was a wonderful read and I simply LOVED it! I can't wait to read the next book - A Wild Sheep Chase (again) now with some additional context on the Rat character. I think this will definitely be a treat for fans of Murakami. And for those that are not familiar with him, this is definitely the place to start.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)
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Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada for consideration/review. All opinions are my own.