Norwegian Wood

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Overview

A special movie-tie in edition for the long-awaited film release based on this beloved novel by Haruki Murakami: the story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, a journey to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years ...

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Norwegian Wood

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Overview

A special movie-tie in edition for the long-awaited film release based on this beloved novel by Haruki Murakami: the story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, a journey to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a complete stylistic departure from his mysterious and surreal novels (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; A Wild Sheep Chase) that show the influences of Salinger, Fitzgerald and Tom Robbins, Murakami tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story, reminiscent of J.R. Salamanca's classic 1964 novel, Lilith--the tale of a young man's involvement with a schizophrenic girl. A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy. Published in Japan in 1987, this novel proved a wild success there, selling four million copies. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
A huge success when it was published in Japan in 1987 and only now translated into English, this book would seem to bear little resemblance to Murakami's surreal later novels (e.g., The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and has been dismissed as just another love story. But it is more. Overcome by the Beatles song "Norwegian Wood," which affects him the way the madeleine affected Proust, narrator Toru spills out the story of his younger self; best friend Kizuki, a suicide at 17; and Kizuki's beloved, Naoko. After Kizuki's death, Toru falls in love with the beautiful, fragile Naoko, who quickly recedes into mental illness. Toru tracks her to a rest home, where he is befriended by her decades-older roommate, Reiko. But as Naoko deteriorates, he falls in love with a woman at his school who is also troubled but is frisky and open. Toru is honorable and intelligent. He questions his obligations: to the dead, to the living, and to himself. And Reiko? Is she a somewhat sinister figure, coming to almost instant intimacy with Toru? Or is she--as she is presented--a sympathetic, almost tragic, figure who wishes all the young people well? Deeply moving, darkly comic, beautifully written, and smoothly translated, this is for all literary fiction collections.--Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Janice P. Nimura
A masterly novel of late-60’s love . . . Rubin’s superb translation is the first English edition authorized for publication outside Japan . . . As disconcerting as Murakami’s weirdest work . . . Even when Haruki Murakami is writing fantasy, he doesn’t write fairy tales.
New York Times Book Review
Daniel Handler
Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction. The ways he has found to inhabit narrative are without precedent, and perhaps more importantly, without gimmick. The stories he tells are new but not particularly newfangled. He tweaks tradition and gives equal air time to both the tradition and the tweak. Murakami's best work is as deep and decorative as those Easter Island heads, but he doesn't make a big deal out of it. The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life. I really like his writing a whole lot.
The Village Voice
Kirkus Reviews
A first US appearance of a novel originally published in 1987, this crisp portrayal of "flaming youth" in the late 1960s proves one of Murakami's most appealing—if uncharacteristic—books. Best known to us as the comic surrealist-symbolist author of such rousing postmodernist fare as A Wild Sheep Chase (1989), Murakami is also a highly intelligent romantic who feels the pangs of his protagonist Toru Watanabe's insistent sexual and intellectual hungers and renders them with unsparing clarity (the matter-of-fact sexual frankness here seems unusual for a Japanese novel, even a 1987 one).Toru's narrative of his student years, lived out against a backdrop of ongoing "campus riots," focuses on the lessons he learns from relationships with several highly individual characters, two of them women he simultaneously loves (or thinks he loves). Mercurial Naoko, who clearly perceives the seeds of her own encroaching madness ("It's like I'm split in two and playing tag with myself"), continues to tug away at Toru's emotions even after she enters a sanatorium. Meanwhile, coy fellow student Midori tries to dispel shadows cast by her parents' painful deaths by fantasizing and simulating—though never actually experiencing—sex with him. Other perspectives on Toru's hard-won assumption of maturity are offered by older student Nagasawa ("a secret reader of classic novels," and a compulsive seducer); Naoko's roommate Reiko, a music teacher (and self-styled interpreter of such Beatles' songs as the one that provides Murakami's evocative title) who's perhaps also her lesbian lover; and the specterofToru's boyhood friend Kizuki, a teenaged suicide. There's a lot of talk about books (particularly Fitzgerald's and Hesse's) and other cultural topics, in a blithely discursive and meditative story that's nevertheless firmly anchored to the here and now by the vibrant immediacy of its closely observed characters and their quite credibly conflicted psyches and libidos. A contemporary equivalent of This Side of Paradise or Vile Bodies, and another solid building-block in one of contemporary fiction's most energetic and impressive bodies of work.
From the Publisher
“A masterly novel. . . . Norwegian Wood bears the unmistakable marks of Murakami’s hand.” –The New York Times Book Review

Norwegian Wood . . . not only points to but manifests the author’s genius.” –Chicago Tribune

“[A] treat . . . Murakami captures the heartbeat of his generation and draws the reader in so completely you mourn when the story is done.” –The Baltimore Sun

“Vintage Murakami [and] easily the most erotic of [his] novels.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307950628
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Movie Tie-in Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 66,789
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into thirty-four languages, and the most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe.

Biography

The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Norwegian Wood (Movie Tie-in Edition)


By Haruki Murakami

Vintage

Copyright © 2012 Haruki Murakami
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307950628

One

I was thirty-seven then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to the Hamburg airport. Cold November rains drenched the earth and lent everything the gloomy air of a Flemish landscape: the ground crew in rain gear, a flag atop a squat airport building, a BMW billboard. So-Germany again.

Once the plane was on the ground, soft music began to flow from the ceiling speakers: a sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." The melody never failed to send a shudder through me, but this time it hit me harder than ever.

I bent forward in my seat, face in hands to keep my skull from splitting open. Before long one of the German stewardesses approached and asked in English if I were sick. "No," I said, "just dizzy."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Thanks."

She smiled and left, and the music changed to a Billy Joel tune. I straightened up and looked out the plane window at the dark clouds hanging over the North Sea, thinking of what I had lost in the course of my life: times gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again.

The plane reached the gate. People began unlatching their seatbelts and pulling baggage from the storage bins, and all the while I was in the meadow. I could smell the grass, feel the wind on my face, hear the cries of the birds. Autumn 1969, and soon I would be twenty.

The stewardess came to check on me again. This time she sat next to me and asked if I was all right.

"I'm fine, thanks," I said with a smile. "Just feeling kind of blue."

"I know what you mean," she said. "It happens to me, too, every once in a while."

She stood and gave me a lovely smile. "Well, then, have a nice trip. Auf Wiedersehen."

"Auf Wiedersehen.

Eighteen years have gone by, and still I can bring back every detail of that day in the meadow. Washed clean of summer's dust by days of gentle rain, the mountains wore a deep, brilliant green. The October breeze set white fronds of head-tall grasses swaying. One long streak of cloud hung pasted across a dome of frozen blue. It almost hurt to look at that faroff sky. A puff of wind swept across the meadow and through her hair before it slipped into the woods to rustle branches and send back snatches of distant barking-a hazy sound that seemed to reach us from the doorway to another world. We heard no other sounds. We met no other people. We saw only two bright, red birds leap startled from the center of the meadow and dart into the woods. As we ambled along, Naoko spoke to me of wells.

Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene, I hardly paid it any mind. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that eighteen years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn't give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself. I was thinking about the beautiful girl walking next to me. I was thinking about the two of us together, and then about myself again. It was the age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications. Scenery was the last thing on my mind.

Now, though, that meadow scene is the first thing that comes back to me. The smell of the grass, the faint chill of the wind, the line of the hills, the barking of a dog: these are the first things, and they come with absolute clarity. I feel as if I can reach out and trace them with a fingertip. And yet, as clear as the scene may be, no one is in it. No one. Naoko is not there, and neither am I. Where could we have disappeared to? How could such a thing have happened? Everything that seemed so important back then-Naoko, and the self I was then, and the world I had then: where could they have all gone? It's true, I can't even bring back Naoko's face-not right away, at least. All I'm left holding is a background, sheer scenery, with no people up front.

True, given time enough, I can bring back her face. I start joining images-her tiny, cold hand; her straight, black hair so smooth and cool to the touch; a soft, rounded earlobe and the microscopic mole just beneath it; the camel's hair coat she wore in the winter; her habit of looking straight into your eyes when asking a question; the slight trembling that would come to her voice now and then (as if she were speaking on a windy hilltop)-and suddenly her face is there, always in profile at first, because Naoko and I were always out walking together, side by side. Then she turns to me, and smiles, and tilts her head just a bit, and begins to speak, and she looks into my eyes as if trying to catch the image of a minnow that has darted across the pool of a limpid spring.

I do need that time, though, for Naoko's face to appear. And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer. The sad truth is that what I could recall in five seconds all too soon needed ten, then thirty, then a full minute-like shadows lengthening at dusk. Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness. There is no way around it: my memory is growing ever more distant from the spot where Naoko used to stand-ever more distant from the spot where my old self used to stand. And nothing but scenery, that view of the meadow in October, returns again and again to me like a symbolic scene in a movie. Each time it appears, it delivers a kick to some part of my mind. "Wake up," it says. "I'm still here. Wake up and think about it. Think about why I'm still here." The kicking never hurts me. There's no pain at all. just a hollow sound that echoes with each kick. And even that is bound to fade one day. At the Hamburg airport, though, the kicks were longer and harder than usual. Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I'm made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.

Let's see, now, what was Naoko talking about that day?

Of course: the "field well." I have no idea whether such a well ever existed, It might have been an image or a sign that existed only inside Naoko, like all the other things she used to spin into existence inside her mind in those dark days. Once she had described it to me, though, I was never able to think of that meadow scene without the well. From that day forward, the image of a thing I had never laid eyes on became inseparably fused to the actual scene of the field that lay before me. I can go so far as to describe the well in minute detail. It lay precisely on the border where the meadow ended and the woods began-a dark opening in the earth a yard across, hidden by the meadow grass. Nothing marked its perimeter-no fence, no stone curb (at least not one that rose above ground level). It was nothing but a hole, a mouth open wide. The stones of its collar had been weathered and turned a strange muddy white. They were cracked and had chunks missing, and a little green lizard slithered into an open seam. You could lean over the edge and peer down to see nothing. All I knew about the well was its frightening depth. It was deep beyond measuring, and crammed full of darkness, as if all the world's darknesses had been boiled down to their ultimate density.

"It's really, really deep," said Naoko, choosing her words with care. She would speak that way sometimes, slowing down to find the exact word she was looking for. "But no one knows where it is," she continued. "The one thing I know for sure is that it's around here somewhere."

Hands thrust into the pockets of her tweed jacket, she smiled at me as if to say "It's true!"

"Then it must be incredibly dangerous," I said. "A deep well, but nobody knows where it is. You could fall in and that'd be the end of you."

"The end. Aaaaaaaah, splat. Finished."

"Things like that must actually happen."

"They do, every once in a while. Maybe once in two or three years. Somebody disappears all of a sudden, and they just can't find him. So then the people around here say, 'Oh, he fell in the field well.'"

"Not a nice way to die," I said.

"No, it's a terrible way to die," said Naoko, brushing a cluster of grass seed from her jacket. "The best thing would be to break your neck, but you'd probably just break your leg and then you couldn't do a thing. You'd yell at the top of your lungs, but nobody'd hear you, and you couldn't expect anybody to find you, and you'd have centipedes and spiders crawling all over you, and the bones of the ones who died before are scattered all around you, and it's dark and soggy, and way overhead there's this tiny, tiny circle of light like a winter moon. You die there in this place, little by little, all by yourself."

"Yuck, just thinking about it makes my flesh creep," I said. "'Somebody should find the thing and build a wall around it."

"But nobody can find it. So make sure you don't go off the path."

"Don't worry, I won't."

Naoko took her left hand from her pocket and squeezed my hand. "Don't you worry" she said. "You'll be O.K. You could go running all around here in the middle of the night and you'd never fall into the well. And as long as I stick with you, I won't fall in, either."

"Never?"

"Never!"

"How can you be so sure?"

"I just know," she said, increasing her grip on my hand and continuing on for a ways in silence. "I know these things. I'm always right. It's got nothing to do with logic: I just feel it. For example, when I'm really close to you like this, I'm not the least bit scared. Nothing dark or evil could ever tempt me."

"Well, that answers that," I said. "All you have to do is stay with me like this all the time."

"Do you mean that?"

"Of course I mean it."

Naoko stopped short. So did I. She put her hands on my shoulders and peered into my eyes. Deep within her own pupils a heavy, black liquid swirled in a strange whirlpool pattern. Those beautiful eyes of hers were looking inside me for a long, long time. Then she stretched to her full height and touched her cheek to mine. It was a marvelous, warm gesture that stopped my heart for a moment.

"Thank you," she said.

"My pleasure," I answered.

"I'm so happy you said that, Really happy," she said with a sad smile. "But it's impossible."

"Impossible? Why?"

"It would be wrong. It would be terrible. It-"

Naoko clamped her mouth shut and started walking again. I could tell that all kinds of thoughts were whirling around in her head, so rather than intrude on them I kept silent and walked by her side.

"It would just be wrong-wrong for you, wrong for me," she said after a long pause.

"Wrong how?" I murmured.

"Don't you see? It's just not possible for one person to watch over another person for ever and ever. I mean, say we got married. You'd have to go to work during the day. Who's going to watch over me while you're away? Or say you have to go on a business trip, who's going to watch over me then? Can I be glued to you every minute of our lives? What kind of equality would there be in that? What kind of relationship would that be? Sooner or later you'd get sick of me. You'd wonder what you were doing with your life, why you were spending all your time babysitting this woman. I couldn't stand that. It wouldn't solve any of my problems."

"But your problems are not going to continue for the rest of your life," I said, touching her back. "They'll end eventually. And when they do, we'll stop and think about how to go on from there. Maybe you will have to help me. We're not running our lives according to some account book. If you need me, use me. Don't you see? Why do you have to be so rigid? Relax, let your guard down. You're all tensed up so you always expect the worst. Relax your body, and the rest of you will lighten up."

"How can you say that?" she asked in a voice drained of feeling.

Naoko's voice alerted me to the possibility that I had said something I shouldn't have.

"Tell me how you could say such a thing," she said, staring down at the ground beneath her feet. "You're not telling me anything I don't know already. 'Relax your body, and the rest of you will lighten up' What's the point of saying that to me? If I relaxed my body now, I'd fall apart. I've always lived like this, and it's the only way I know how to go on living. If I relaxed for a second, I'd never find my way back. I'd go to pieces, and the pieces would be blown away. Why can't you see that? How can you talk about watching over me if you can't see that?"

I said nothing in return.

"I'm confused. Really confused. And it's a lot deeper than you think. Deeper . . . darker . . . colder. But tell me something. How could you have slept with me that time? How could you have done such a thing? Why didn't you just leave me alone?"

Now we were walking through the frightful silence of a pine wood. The desiccated corpses of cicadas that had died at the end of the summer littered the surface of the path, crunching beneath our shoes. As if searching for something we'd lost, Naoko and I continued slowly down the path in the woods.

"I'm sorry," she said, taking my arm and shaking her head. "I didn't mean to hurt you. Try not to let what I said bother you. Really, I'm sorry. I was just angry at myself."

Continues...

Excerpted from Norwegian Wood (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Haruki Murakami Copyright © 2012 by Haruki Murakami. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. When Watanabe arrives in Hamburg and hears the song "Norwegian Wood, " memories of a scene with Naoko from eighteen years before come back to him. He feels these memories as "kicks" and says they were "longer and harder than usual. Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. . . . I have to write things down to feel I fully understand them" [p. 5]. Why does this particular song have such a powerful effect on Watanabe? What does he understand—or fail to understand—about it by the end of the novel? In what ways does the process of writing help in understanding?

2. Many readers and critics have observed that Norwegian Wood is Murakami's most autobiographical book. While we can never know exactly to what degree a work of fiction reflects the lived experience of its author, what qualities of the novel feel autobiographical rather than purely fictional? Do these qualities enhance your enjoyment of the book?

3. After Watanabe sleeps with Naoko, he says that "her cry was the saddest sound of orgasm I had ever heard" [p. 40]. Just before she commits suicide, Naoko tells Reiko: "I just don't want anybody going inside me again. I just don't want to be violated like that again—by anybody" [p. 284]. In what sense did Watanabe "violate" her? Do you feel this experience directly relates to her suicide? Was it, as Watanabe still asks himself nearly twenty years later, "the right thing to do"?

4. Throughout the novel, Watanabe is powerfully drawn to both Naoko and Midori. How are these women different from one another? How would you describe the differentkinds of love they offer Watanabe? Why do you think he finally chooses Midori? Has he made the right choice?

5. The events Norwegian Wood relates take place in the late sixties, a period of widespread student unrest. The university Watanabe attends is frequently beset with protests and strikes and, in Watanabe's view, pompous "revolutionary" speeches filled with meaningless cliches. "The true enemy of this bunch, " Watanabe thinks, "was not State Power but Lack of Imagination" [p. 57]. At first, he identifies with the student protesters but then grows cynical. What qualities of Watanabe's character make this cynicism inevitable? What is Midori's reaction to student activism?

6. How would you describe Watanabe's friend Nagasawa? What is his view of life, of the right way to live? Why is Watanabe drawn to him? In what important ways—particularly in their treatment of women—are they different? How does Murakami use the character of Nagasawa to define Watanabe more sharply?

7. The Great Gatsby is Watanabe's favorite book, one that he rereads often. Why do you think he identifies so strongly with Fitzgerald's novel? What does this identification reveal about his character and his worldview?

8. In many ways, Norwegian Wood is a novel about young people struggling to find themselves and survive their various troubles. Kizuki, Hatsumi, Naoko's sister, and Naoko herself fail in this struggle and commit suicide. How do their deaths affect those they leave behind? In what ways does Kizuki's suicide both deepen and tragically limit Watanabe's relationship with Naoko?

9. Murakami's prose rises at times to an incandescent lyricism. The description of Watanabe embracing Naoko is one such instance: "From shoulder to back to hips, I slid my hand again and again, driving the line and the softness of her body into my brain. After we had been in this gentle embrace for a while, Naoko touched her lips to my forehead and slipped out of bed. I could see her pale blue gown flash in the darkness like a fish" [p. 163]. Where else do you find this poetic richness in Norwegian Wood? What does such writing add to the novel? What does it tell us about Watanabe's sensibility?

10. At the center of the novel, Reiko tells the long and painful story of how her life was ruined by a sexual relationship with a young and pathologically dishonest female student. How does this story within the story illuminate other relationships in the novel?

11. What is unusual about the asylum where Reiko and Naoko are staying? What methods of healing are employed there? How do the asylum and the principles on which it is run illuminate the concerns about being "normal" that nearly all the characters in the novel express?

12. Naoko attributes Kizuki's suicide and her own depression to the fact that they shared such an idyllic childhood together and eventually, as adults, had to pay the price for that early happiness. "We didn't pay when we should have, so now the bills are due" [p. 128]. Do you think this is an accurate way of understanding what's happened to them? What alternative explanations would you propose?

13. After Kizuki and Naoko have both committed suicide, Watanabe writes: "I had learned one thing from Kizuki's death, and I believed that I had made it part of myself in the form of a philosophy: 'Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life'" [p. 273]. What do you think he means? Is this view of life and death resigned or affirmative? How would such a philosophy change one's approach to life?

14. What makes Midori such an engaging and forceful character? How is she different from everyone else in the novel? What kind of love does she demand from Watanabe? Is she being selfish in her demands or simply asking for what everyone wants but is afraid to pursue?

15. Norwegian Wood appears to end on a happy note with Watanabe calling Midori and telling her: "All I want in the world is you. . . . I want the two of us to begin everything from the beginning" [p. 293]. But when Midori asks where he is, Watanabe is plunged into a kind of existential confusion. How do you interpret the novel's final mysterious sentence: "Again and again, I called out for Midori from the dead center of this place that was no place." Is there anything positive in Watanabe's not knowing "where he is"? What is the significance of his being at the "dead center" of no place, wishing for a new beginning?

16. The events of the novel take place in the fictional past. What can you infer about Watanabe's present condition from the way he tells this story? Do you imagine that he and Midori have remained together?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 112 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(64)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 112 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2011

    Amazing!!

    A love story like no other, but then again, it's not really like any other love story around. It brings to question as to what love is, what do we consider love to be and what exactly are we looking for when we are in love? This book helps bring back an individual who has suffered from a servere break-up or current divorce because it gives the reader a chance to find himself again, and in some case closure or peace of mind. If you're looking to bounce back from depression and enjoy yourself and your own life, I highly recommend this book!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Not my favourite

    This is not my favourite novel by Haruki Murakami, but I still enjoyed it. I don`t think it is as great as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, for instance, but the slow pace of this novel, the dreaminess is great, the characters are very true, very real. It is essentially the story of first and second love and how we open our hearts to another human being, by sometimes risking all that we have.
    Apparently this is the book that made Murakami famous in the Western world, which I find strange, not because the book is bad, no - it is a great book. But this novel is actually rather different from his other works.
    I heartily recommend it, but also to read other books from the same author, because they are different.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    I'm sorry but i couldn't get past page 40...

    just some endless conversations between the main character and the women in his life. Whatever!! This is boring, depressing , whatever you want to call it, I just can't stand to pick it back up and get past page 41.

    I have read some reviews that the translation into english doesn't work out to well....but make your excuses....this book is boring!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Readable, Intensely Individual Book

    Nor­we­gian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a fic­tional1987 novel set in 1960s Tokyo, Japan. The novel became pop­u­lar with Japan­ese youth and pro­pelled Murakami to new heights of fame.

    Toru Watan­abe rem­i­nisces about his days as a col­lege stu­dent in 1960s Tokyo. At the time Watan­abe devel­oped strong rela­tion­ships with two women whose per­son­al­i­ties are oppo­site of one another. Naoko is beau­ti­ful yet trou­bled while Midori is out­go­ing and lively.

    Nor­we­gian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a mem­o­rable story, yet sim­ple and unas­sum­ing. Patience seemed to be the main theme as it seems the nar­ra­tor, Toru Watan­abe, waits for a woman to return his love.

    Unlike Murakami other books, this one lacks the super­nat­ural over a more prac­ti­cal themes such as choos­ing a real­is­tic part­ner over a lost fan­tasy. Watan­abe copes with loss through­out the book and the tale, told in flash­backs, is mostly how he copes with them.

    The char­ac­ters are well defined and real­is­tic while they bat­tle tragedy tossed at them at every turn by Murakami. They have roman­tic inspi­ra­tions and rejec­tions, strug­gle with depres­sion and flawed. There are many ref­er­ences to dead or dying char­ac­ters for a short book such as this.

    While many of the pages are gloomy, many oth­ers are filled with hope and humor. If I had to use word to describe this novel I would choose “authen­tic” as the book feels fresh and non-conventional. It is beyond me how the author man­aged to cre­ate such a unique atmos­phere while writ­ing, it cer­tainly came across to me as a reader – and of a trans­lated work nonetheless.

    This is a read­able book, intensely indi­vid­ual and from my under­stand­ing an ear­lier trans­la­tion was used by school chil­dren in Japan to learn Eng­lish. I found that a bit amus­ing since the book includes mas­tur­ba­tion, drunk­en­ness, promis­cu­ity, mas­tur­ba­tion, molesta­tion, men­tal ill­ness, sui­cide and more.

    This is before I learned that the book was banned in the US.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2012

    Great read, but not for the casual reader

    Sex, love, and neuroses. What more could anyone ask of a novel? Of course, that IS a gross simplification of a novel which presents some fairly complex themes, such as love, identity, duty, and many others. If one is looking for a read with some texture and depth, look no further. However, if one is looking for an easily digestible, pulp fiction read, he should probably look elsewhere.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    Pointless

    Sad, pointless, feeble female characters, overrated.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Different

    For a Murakami novel, Norwegian Wood was really different. It did not involve someone running away or going missing and it didn't have many crazy things going on. It was a more cohesive story than most of his other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2004

    Heartbreakingly real

    A not-so-simple story about a doomed love affair. A coming-of-age kind of story. Oddly, some of the construction reminds me of Chaucer's 'A Knight's Tale.' Very interesting, that. Anyway, he's a master at characterization. Sometimes I had to step outside of the novel just to marvel at his technique. Sometimes he reminds me of Lorrie Moore, in the way that he makes observations that hit you, bam, in the solar plexus, making you understand certain truths you hadn't understood before. Or, things you'd never verbalized, even internally. Yes. It's so, so good. Maybe a little melodramatic at times (death, death, death), but if a novelist is supposed to help us understand life, well. Yes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2001

    An outstanding piece of literature

    This book will not only captivate you, but change the way you look at the world. There are not enough stars to give this novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2001

    Camu Translates Catcher in the Rye

    A modern moving masterpiece. Haruki captures the pulse of true existentialism in the voice of an adolescent. A treasure to store in one's memory.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2001

    Modern masterpiece

    Before its U.S. publication, I had only heard about how wonderful Haruki's first novel was. I knew that it was the novel that broke sales records in Japan and established him as a premier author who not only appealed to a small cult following, but also was admired by readers around the world. I was excited to finally be able to get my hands on a copy that was not a 500 dollar collector's item. This novel was AMAZING! A simple plot line, realistic characters, and clear, descriptive writing throughout. A must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2014

    Love it!! I already read it once I am planning reading it again.

    Love it!! I already read it once I am planning reading it again. I started reading Japanese writers with Banana Yoshimoto. I loved how she described the food and Japanese locations.
    One friend told me it was impossible to read Murakami but other friend borrow me first South to the border... then I read this one. Both are very similar stories. I really liked how Murakami describes day by day the activities that the characters did and how relationships changes after the years and circunstances. I recommend this book for begginers who wants to start reading Murakami.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    must read

    This is the first book I have read by Murakami. I have to say I am very honored to have read his work. An amazing story of men, women, and everything that life brings you --be it happiness or sorrow.
    If you want to see this book come to life, Tran Anh Hung made a film based on this with the same title. It was a good film, but the book was honestly more full of life. Murakami's words are still better than the actors speaking.

    I am definitely reading more of Murakami's work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Luckyshot and Blazekit

    They raced in
    <p> Blazekit tripped on a rot and fell on his face. "Im ok!" He quickly got up

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Autumndapple

    "Its ok. A long as my baby is safe." She purred and brought auburn back to camp.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Auburnkit

    She shrank back. Im sorry

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014

    Snowpaw

    Here?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Ice

    "She my kin". She growls

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Jaguarcrow

    "Ice! Shut your muzzle!" He sneered.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Waterpaw

    "And what right is that?" She hissed and stalked out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 112 Customer Reviews

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