Thursday 9 April 2020

Re-reading Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

"Why? This world is rife with matters philosophy cannot explain."
-from Pinball, 1973 (Haruki Murakami)
during this goddamn quarantine due to COVID-19 pandemic, i manage to finish some unfinished book from my collection, as well as re-read some books. opening my bookshelf, i found one book that i got for my 24th birthday several years ago, wind/pinball -two novellas written by haruki murakami which also happened to be his first two books.
this is one book that i re-read during this pandemic, beside life of pi by yann martel. 

a well-written short introduction 
in the introduction, murakami himself wrote how he lived in tokyo with his wife, worked like a horse, while studying at a university. he loaned to open a cafe, while still doing some part-time jobs to pay the debts, reading books and listening to music at late night.
one fine day when he was watching a baseball game which also was the season opener of that year, some kind of revelation struck his head. "i think i can write a novel."
and so his first novella hear the wind sing or the original title 風の歌を聴け (kaze no uta wo kike) was written. he submitted the story, and it was shortlisted. the second book was written the following year. it was titled pinball, 1973 or 1973年のピンボール (1973 nen no pinboru).
he called his first two book the kitchen-table fictions, as they were literally written on a table of the kitchen, late at night. as his first two books became a national hit, he decided to be a full-time writer and sold the cafe.

this is a story about an unnamed narrator "me" (僕, boku) who is a biology student of a university in tokyo and his friend the rat (鼠, nezumi). the narrator (or simply boku, for short) was having summer vacation in his hometown, the town name was not mentioned either. the best bet was that it was a coastal town. the story was mainly about women and beer.
"This story begins on August 8, 1970, and ends eighteen days later -in other words, on August 26 the same year."  as he stated on the second chapter of the story. murakami then brought us to that year's vibes. the nuance, the music, all of it. the time considered as peacetime. the post-war period japan. and of course, the heat of summer.
boku was not having so much to do during that period, except hanging out in J's bar with the rat. boku told the first time he met the rat but never mentioned about his real name, neither did the rat himself. one thing we know, his parents was rich as hell. nothing was known about J either, except that he was a chinese and 20 years older than them.
during that short period of time, boku met a girl. he only described her as "the girl with nine fingers" and no other description, not even name was mentioned. she hated boku at first due to something she considered inappropriate and impolite about him, but then she saw boku as a gentleman with a responsible manner. he ended up dating this girl, but not slept with her. boku told that he did only sleep with 3 girls, the girl with 9 fingers not included. the last girl he slept with was a french literature student. she killed by getting herself hanged.
the rat was not a good friend of books as he was a good friend to beer. he couldn't resist 5 minutes reading one page without closing the cover back again.
“Why do you read books?” he asked. “Why do you drink beer?” I replied without glancing in his direction.”
all of a sudden the rat said that he would write a novel. the one without sex scene, he said.
as time flowed, boku came back to tokyo. he left the girl he dated but not slept with. he left J's bar and the rat after helping him with the problem he faced. "I'm taking the night bus," he told J.

set 3 years after the first story, boku and the rat now separated hundreds of miles away. the rat still residing his hometown as a writer -he dropped out university, and boku on the other side lived and opened a translation firm in tokyo after finishing his school.
boku found himself lived with these twin girls at his apartment. again, no name, no clear description, even their age is unknown. boku only identified the one as 208 and the other 209 as written on the shirt they wore. 
the rat met a girl one day he ordered a typewriter. she was so classy, well-spoken person, and only wore the best garment as the rat explained. that is as much as could be told from the rat. what about boku?
one particular time, winter 1970 to be exact, boku found himself addicted to a particular spaceship pinball machine in a particular place in tokyo. he could spend so much of his part-time money into this machine, he said. one day the machine was thrown away and shifted with a doughnut shop. boku forgot about the machine, at least at that time.
the rat went away from the town. it took him a while to break up with his girlfriend and told J about the farewell. but he promised to come back.
one day in 1973 he missed that pinball machine. he was doing all means in order to get to that machine back. he called a particular shop, which led him to a particular hobbyist who unexpectedly knew everything about that machine and pinball arcades in general. one day the man called him, and finally he found the spaceship pinball machine with all of the nostalgia.

to conclude
the book contains two stories about two youngsters and their young lives during the post-war era. drinking, smoking, having sex, and the struggle to find the meaning of life in their 20's. along with their loneliness and solitude.
the writing was fluid. the western style was combined with eastern elements such as well. some surreal elements were also injected, such as when boku talked to the people from saturn and venus, or when he told about the shifting of the season as a person entering and exiting a room.
i don't know. i can't make a clear conclusion as to what i read myself. "this world is rife with matters philosophy cannot explain." as boku stated.

home, 9 april 2020
am i too dumb to read the book?

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