This is the novella that started it all, launching Haruki Murakami’s career as a writer, an outcome that he likely didn’t anticipate as he spent one hour writing each night after closing the jazz club that he and his wife owned in a suburb of Tokyo.
In a fascinating introduction to the Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami reflects back on this time on his life from the perspective of a now established and world-renowned author.
“The language had to be simple, my ideas expressed in an easy-to-understand way, the descriptions stripped of all extraneous fat, the form made compact, everything arranged to fit a container of limited size.”
I describe the introduction as fascinating because I share with the young Murakami the same dream – filled with longing and audacity – that I can one day be a novelist. He describes the process of that first novel and his struggle against self doubt beautifully. Most remarkably, in order to strip the language down and simplify, he writes the opening portion of the book in English before translating it to his native Japanese.
What an interesting way to simplify language, find a rhythm, and get past the fear and self-consciousness that often comes with crippling writer’s block!
While I have grown to love Murakami’s writing, it is, unfortunately, the introduction that I liked most about this book.
The main character is sometimes likable but mostly misses the relatability that will come with Murakami’s future characters. And, while Murakami dabbles in the alternate universes that will become his later landscape, he doesn’t fully dive in here. Not quite yet…but he will.
After his success with Hear the Wind Sing, affectionately known as Wind by Murakami fans and some publishers, Murakami wrote two more books with similar plot lines and characters known as the Trilogy of the Rat Series. My opinion of the second two books is exactly the same as that of Wind. I didn’t love any of them. But there are flashes of brilliance and it’s interesting to watch a writer develop.
In the United States, Hear the Wind Sing is sold coupled with Pinball, the second book in the series, and published as Wind/Pinball.
Though I didn’t love Wind/Pinball, I’m glad that I read The Trilogy of the Rat Series. Not because the novels are all that great. Quite frankly, in Wind/Pinball, Murakami is learning to be one of literature’s modern-day greats, but he has a long way to go. It is, however, a really interesting read for those who have spent pleasant days lost in the slightly alternate universes of Kafka on the Shore, or The Windup Bird Chronicle or 1Q84. All worlds that I have been lost in because my late partner left all three on his shelves!
This is book is part of my #LiveLikeJeff book project. When I first met Jeff, his books were kept in neat stacks on the floor of his bedroom. His books stretched toward the ceiling in sturdy towers that were nearly as tall as me. Like all things about Jeff, even his book collection seemed larger than life. Though cancer claimed my partner at the age of 40, I continue to learn from Jeff’s inquisitive and encyclopedic mind by digging into the books that peppered his thoughts and helped to form his perspective.
Though Hear the Wind Sing was not on Jeff’s bookshelf, it represented a small dilemma for me, since the third book in the trilogy, Wild Sheep Chase, was on his shelves. I decided that, in order to complete my mission to read all of Jeff’s books, I had to start at the beginning and read Wind and Pinball before settling into the book that Jeff did own (and the many other Murakami books that he stacked on his bookshelves!)
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949. He grew up in Kobe and then moved to Tokyo, where he attended Waseda University. After college, Murakami opened a small jazz bar, which he and his wife ran for seven years.
His first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, won the Gunzou Literature Prize for budding writers in 1979. He followed this success with two sequels, Pinball, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase, which all together form “The Trilogy of the Rat.”
Murakami is also the author of the novels Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World; Norwegian Wood; Dance Dance Dance; South of the Border, West of the Sun; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; After Dark; 1Q84; and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. He has written three short story collections: The Elephant Vanishes; After the Quake; and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; and an illustrated novella, The Strange Library.
Additionally, Murakami has written several works of nonfiction. After the Hanshin earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack in 1995, he interviewed surviving victims, as well as members of the religious cult responsible. From these interviews, he published two nonfiction books in Japan, which were selectively combined to form Underground. He also wrote a series of personal essays on running, entitled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
The most recent of his many international literary honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul. Murakami’s work has been translated into more than fifty languages.