Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Murakami and Magical Realism

First a general disclamer: I am not going to expound on Magical Realism because I'm no academic expert (nor a Literatec... yet!) plus I haven't really read up on a lot of books in that genre except popular ones like Senor Vivo and the Cocoa Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis de Berniers, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rudshie, House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende and selected novels by Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami. What I know about Magical Realism are gathered from those books I've read and what Wikipedia has to say about it.

But for me as a reader, Magical Realism done right is nothing short of AWESOMEFASCINATINGOHMYGOODNESSMOAR! It simply captures me and keeps me turning the book page after page. It's like real, ordinary life with its seemingly common occurrences made extraordinary with the presence of fantasy: a mix of folklore, fable, dark mystery and legends. Though it seems odd at first and possibly unbelieveable, this is where the talent of the writers lie. They make it so natural, so believeable that you'd simply accept it as a part of the character's world and the character's life and with the distant thought that maybe, one ordinary day at some ordinary place, it will happen to you, too!

I just read Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. It's such a pain to get a hold of a copy from where I am... I had to resort to borrowing from a very good friend who's a huge bookworm and an avid Murakami fan as well.

What started as what I thought was a normal slice-of-life novel with quirky characters suddenly turned into something surreal and dark. I should have known, this was Murakami I was reading for goodness sake!

The novel starts with the narrator, a 24-year-old teacher known simply as "K". In the novel, we are introduced to Sumire, a socially and domestically inept girl with a penchant for writing crazy novels with dreams of being published and becoming a big author someday. Though the narrator and Sumire are very close, we learn gradually that the narrator has an unrequited love for her, as unfortunately, Sumire doesn't have feelings for him as a man. They manage to get along quite nicely with their same love for Jack Kerouac and other popular literary authors.

The novel steadily rises after it has introduced Miu, a beautiful woman who Sumire meets and falls in love with. The cincher is that Miu is 17 years older than Sumire and is already married. Miu takes Sumire under her wing and employs her in her small wine business. She takes Sumire along her business travels around the world, leaving K behind to wait for Sumire's postcards and letters. A sudden twist in the middle of the story happens when Miu calls from across the globe and suddenly says that something strange happened to Sumire, that she disappeared " smoke." And after that, we are taken in to read revealing stories about Sumire and a strange cat that disappeared completely after climbing into a tree, the world of dreams that Sumire was always writing about, as well as Miu's own tale about riding a high ferris wheel, looking into her own apartment window and seeing herself inside there having carnal relations with a man she loathes.

The twist is a bit jarring for me in a good way. Like waking up in the middle of an afternoon nap in a place I've never been to before. The beauty of the novel lies in Murakami's stringing of words, of sentences, of thoughts and of the stories of each characters together. Even in this light novel, his Magical Realism is present in various elements. Its incredible how fantastic the situation may seem, especially with Sumire's sudden disappearance and Miu's The Other World seems dark and mysterious.

The ending is pretty much Murakami, as most say that his endings are pretty unsatisfying. Though for me it does feel like his endings are a huge mental cliff that left me with an unresolved feeling. But I loved it, the ending was deep and moving.

I can't wait for the next book from him. I hope to read South of the Border, West of the Sun next.


  1. i love this blog. i'm a reader also, but in portuguese.Gabriel Garcia Marquez is in my list. if you understand a litle of portuguese; visit my blog: and follow me.

  2. I am a writer and I often incorporate magical realism. You might enjoy my short story--the most recent being "The Return of the Squirrel Man"

    Check it out:

    tell me what you think.

  3. Can't wait to read this.Thanks for sharing.