If I were to use only one word to describe this book, I would type the word 'brilliant'
a million times with each letter in CAPITALS and fill up the entire word length of this particular space. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
in all its sensitivity, emotional depth and keen understanding of the complications of the human mind is a stellar work of literature and a tour de force
in itself. I cannot go ahead and say it is Murakami's magnum opus
(it is not his longest novel), since I haven't finished with all his translated works and besides he is only 63 and I expect him to keep writing books for as long as it matters, each one better than the last. But I'm forced to admit that of the 5 Murakami books I have had the fortune to read so far, this one stands out as the most gripping, most cerebral yet compassionate commentary on loneliness and human misery.
In this particular novel, Murakami stitches together a handful of seductively beautiful vignettes to form a magnificent larger than life image, that does not only represent a story of a particular individual but recounts the tales of many. Seemingly unconnected at first, these numerous subplots coalesce together in a solid clincher of an ending - a humongous task but performed with elan by the masterful surrealist.
It is a story of a marriage which is falling apart slowly but steadily, a moving depiction of the horrors inflicted on humanity during Japan's occupation of Manchuria and the forgotten battle of Nomonhan, a mystery thriller, an exploration of the inherent darkness within each one of us and a man's path to self discovery all combined into one.Newly out of work, Toru Okada is leading a peaceful life with his wife Kumiko when his carefully organized world starts to crumble bit by bit. His wife goes missing without a hint, the sociopathic brother-in-law he despises with a passion is emerging as a compelling figure in Japanese politics and he begins encountering queer characters one after the other, each of whom seem to be twisted individuals but guide him towards solving the mystery of his wife's sudden disappearance. And thus begins a most intriguing tale of Okada's journey through an intricate labyrinthine path stretching across time and space, the real and the surreal, where he goes through a set of bizarre but enlightening experiences.
It is difficult for me to say anything more about the plot simply because it is impossible to summarize a Murakami novel or to express all the emotions a reader goes through in such a short review. Honestly I could write a whole damn book if I'm to review every aspect of one particular Murakami novel.
All this time I had subconsciously developed an intense desire of knowing Murakami's opinions on Japan's infamous role in World War II. This book surprised me pleasantly by giving me exactly that and I'm not disappointed with his view.
Instead of taking a stand, Murakami describes a few scenes of extreme violence with precision and calculated neutrality and pushes the reader to form his/her own opinion. He does not try to absolve the Japanese of the unmentionable crimes they committed against the Chinese but at the same time offers a very human perspective of the trail of death and devastation. For example, when a Japanese veterinarian, serving as the director of a zoo in Manchukuo is being made to watch the gruesome killing of 4 Chinese rebels with bayonets, Murakami sums up his feelings in the line:-
'He became simultaneously the stabber and the stabbed.'
I don't think he could have created a more moving picture of the ruthlessness of war or the unimaginable horrors it spawns. If the Japanese were ruthlessly brutal, so were the rest - the Soviets, the Mongols and every single human being who killed or tortured another in the name of war. He also hints at the accountability of those at the helm of matters, seated somewhere in their immaculately decorated offices, dressed in dapper suits, making decisions which alter the course of humanity for the worse and bring about disastrous consequences for the rest to face.
This is perhaps the only Murakami novel which has a very strong element of mystery at heart and which ends with a satisfactory resolution of sorts.
In fact it is a bit amusing to notice that it has an ending where the villainous bastard gets slayed and the hero and the heroine reunite (almost) - the kind of thing you don't expect from Murakami but I guess tragic and inconclusive endings can get monotonous after a time.
Final rating :- 5 stars and no less. Hell, I could've given it a 10 stars out of 5 if possible.P.S:
I don't care if Murakami doesn't win the Nobel this year as well because in the heart of every devoted Murakami lover, he has been given the Nobel a million times over already.