Saturday, February 2, 2008

The magician from Tokyo

Japan is one country which has captured my imagination since I was a child.I guess it started after watching the series "Oshin" on Doordarshan.That was a time when Ekta Kapoor was yet to unleash her Saans-Bahu never-ending sagas on the Indian households and people still believed that entertainment should also provide some food for thought.My japanese fixation grew with time , especially after watching Kurosawa and reading Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami.
I have just started on my 3rd Haruki Murakami novel and its called " The wind up bird chronicle".Now ,I have this peculiar habit-if I like a book I become an unpaid publicity agent for that writer.I would not only recommend it to everyone but harrass the person non-stop till he reaches the last page.So now I would proceed to do the same.
For those not familiar with Mr.Murakami's works , I have decided to put together a definiton like those high and mighty literary critics do.It goes like this " Mr. Murakami's work can be defined as bizarre characters meeting other equally bizarre characters under extraordinarily bizarre circumstances".The one I am reading right now revolves around a man in search of his cat which is very dear to his wife.In the course of his seach and a span of just 40 pages he has already met a woman looking for telephone sex , a bored teenage girl who lives alone and watches cats in her neighbourhood and a lady who believes in controlling the elements.As this happens to be my 3rd Murakami novel after " Norwegian woods " and " Hard-boiled wonderland and end of the universe" I am finding myself in a slightly familar terrain.For beginners I must warn that this man can take your mind out , put it a mixer-grinder and churn the contents of your head till you feel that you have lost you mind forever.The problem I had at first with this Japanese gentleman was that for some reasons I was searching for reason in his plots and characters.On deeper introspection I know the problem is that I have grown up on a staple diet of Hindi movies.So the idea of loose ends in a story and unexplained characters is totally alien to me.In a hindi movie if the hero has a sister you can rest assured she would be raped by the villain in due course of time, else the hero won't have a sister.So with that frame of mind I started reading my first Murakami novel , only to realise that very soon that I am missing out on a joyride.Murakami takes you on a roller coaster ride , where characters would come and dissapear for no reason , where your protagonist will sleep with women you never expected to , where people for no reaon will start talking of Beatles and Bob Dylan , where cats will start talking and somehow even in this wild circus you will find a cleverly woven plot unfolding before your eyes in a manner that is both weird and entertaining at the same time.
Rich in symbolism and metaphors ,Murakami is among the writers whose books are to be chewed slowly rather than devoured as a whole.If you read one sentence too quickly , you might miss a piece of dark humour or an unusual oxymoron or just a bizarre similie that very few writers could even dream of.The second most important thing to remember is that don't expext anything and don't ask why.Go with the flow of his narrative.Strange things will happen to the characters.Moreover you will feel at times the narrator is a junkie who had an overdose of cocaine.For example , Murakami might devote 3 paragraphs for the colour of a particular character's lipstick or nail-polish.Dont expect it be of som great significance to the plot.He just mentioned it because he felt like it.

I have spend sometime wondering where Muarakami's appeal lie.I believe his cult status has something more to it than its bizarre plots and his high " coolness qoutient" for referring to rockstars and hollywood movies in every 3rd page.Its essentially lies in his abilty to split open and dissect the working of the urban mind , it's innate sense of alienation and its deepest fears and insecurities.His characters are universal , they might well belong to Mumbai instead of Tokyo. His appeal , I believe , lies in his knack of touching the mind of the reader at a very subliminal level .I remember one of his characters , who said she was a fan of Bob Dylan because its reminds her of a child gazing out of his window when its raining outside.Rain ,child and Bob Dylan..where is the connection? Apparently there is no connection, but if I ever have to think of Bob Dylan's music as an image nothing fits better than the one mentioned above.There exactly lies Murakami's genius ,his constantly ability to go hammer and tongs at your head and make you wonder " Oh fuck! that's so true but I never thought of it this way!".
Murakami himself has said that his work is taken more seriously than he would like them to do.Like Pink Floyd's songs, critics would endlessly dissect his work for hidden symbolisms.Such people are bound to be dissapointed.The way to read Murakami is simple.Just enjoy the ride, cause he will take you to places where you have never gone before.
Bon voyage!


  1. "In a hindi movie if the hero has a sister you can rest assured she would be raped by the villain in due course of time, else the hero won't have a sister".
    Strange...I was trying to think of a Hindi flick where the hero's sis doesn't get raped and I could remember none...but then I watch only about one Hindi movie per year.


  2. hey Sujoy , you should watch hindi movies more often..i rememeber quite a few movies where the hero's sister doesnt get that case the hero has to work overtime or drive autorickshaws to pay for her dowry..jst kidding..sisters hv come a long way in hindi cinema..remember Shreyas Talpade's siSter in "Iqbal"?

  3. u hav developed enough curiosiy in me to read ur "magician from tokyo"'s next thing m gonna do wen i get bk to kolkata, is get one of his books n sip thru it....
    (wont devour...)