Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Murakami and Melancholy

Some pieces of literary brilliance fill you with so much despair that you are literally waiting to burst open with all those shrivelled packets of unhappiness you had locked away long ago. This obnoxiously long first sentence only goes onto perfectly display the amount I was holding back, till I turned over the last page of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. And then, despair took over. A kind of sweet melancholy which does not make you cry, but leaves you eternally ponderous.

Thanks for a lovely Secret Santa gift Shweta!

Many call Norwegian Wood a love story. Few others a loss story. How, however, is it so simple to classify a novel which is a deeply moving reflection on all that ails us as humankind. Each character, painted in poignant detail, is a model of damage which many people suffer over many eras in life. The central character, Toru Watanabe, has a lot riding on him. He is the unifying factor in a story which seamlessly sews together damaged, fragmented, suppressed and even deranged psyches. Norwegian Woods is a love dance played within the psychological space of different individuals united with this deep sense of melancholia.

Imagine eternal winters taking over the heart of people - this is what Murakami's simple tale narrates. I say simple consciously. Simple is what this book is. Simple in language, in style, in thoughts, and it is this simplicity which tugs at your heart with a passive force binding you to the pace of the lives of Toru, Naoko, Midori, Reiko, Nagasawa and even Hatsumi. Far too many deaths in the book only add beauty to the narrative. Like that was even possible.

Haruki Murakami

This is not a review, yet it is important to spell out that Toru Watanabe was in love with his childhood sweetheart, Naoko, who came with historical and psychological complications. His relationship with a reticent and implosive Naoko is a contrast to his companionship with Midori - an outgoing, verbose, crazy-but-endearing girl, who is also a model of emotional strength. The exploration through the relationships with these two very different females is an exploration of Toru's character, which I found torn between a promise of valorous love and the reality of a  sensually satisfying affair. Nowhere have I seen a more wonderful elucidation of the physical mutating and shaping the psychological and emotional realities of a person. Murakami has accomplished this in nerve defying detail.

I was recently sharing with a close friend, how this novel revealed to me that sadness can be titillating too. Their is a heavy dose of wintry sorrowful sensuality in Murakami's prose. Sadness appears to be the most defining, the most basic, and the most unifying of human emotions. So much, that you want to touch feel it, touch it, lie down with it. Make love to it too, perhaps.

The spell of the book can cause this spiel to continue. I must put a stop though, since Mitch Albom beckons me after this.

A parting message - the impact of the book was so strong that it led to a need for discussion. While much of it happened over whatsapp, a twitter property also came into being, called @LitColl, short for #LitCollective, under which tag, I will be hoping to discuss some literary concepts with you all. Care to join?

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