The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin
In less than a week, you can be holding 1Q84, Haruki Murakami‘s long-awaited spectacular title finally available in English, which hits shelves on October 25. You might choose to hold out until November 8 when the audible version is scheduled for release. All 944 pages (on paper or recorded) will be well worth the wait, I promise!
If you find you need a few satisfying distractions during this final countdown week, re-discovering Murakami’s earlier tomes might just do the trick, especially when unpredictable moons and ladders that serve as downward portals to other worlds prove to be repeated Murakami-markers. Rediscovering Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle a decade-plus after initial reading has been quite the wide-eyed adventure indeed.
Toru Okada is unemployed with little to do. His wife Kumiko’s job at a magazine is enough for now to keep them comfortable. While he’s playing househusband, he’s also supposed to be on the lookout for their pet cat, Noboru Wataya, named after Kumiko’s brother.
Toru’s search for that cat triggers one surreal occurrence after another, surrounding him with a bevy of “inscrutable women coming out of nowhere,” including a faceless erotic voice on the phone who knows too much, his teenaged truant neighbor May Kasahara who dubs him “Mr. Wind-Up Bird, the enigmatic Malta Kano whose prescient powers are initially enlisted to help find the cat, her sister Creta Kano who is a self-described “prostitute of the mind,” and the mysterious Nutmeg Akasaka who proves to be a dubious, temporary savior of sorts.
Meanwhile, the most important woman in Toru’s life disappears without a trace … while her powerful brother becomes a looming, evil presence that Toru must somehow defeat. An elderly officer literally appears on Toru’s doorstep with an unexpected inheritance, bearing long-ago, inexplicable horror stories of war, death, and destruction, proving once again that no beings are as inhumane as humans. Overwhelmed, Toru seeks refuge in a dried-up well in the abandoned house next-door, which might be the only way into room 208 …
Welcome to another of Murakami’s addictive fantastical worlds, an extreme mix of sometimes brutal reality and escapist journeys where, in spite of the stomach-churning speed, you’ll never want to leave …
Tidbit: If Chronicle seems initially familiar, that’s because the opening chapter of the novel debuted to English-reading audiences in slightly different translation as the first story in Murakami’s 1993 collection, The Elephant Vanishes, titled “The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday’s Women.” The story was translated by Alfred Birnbaum, the novel by Jay Rubin. The missing cat in Birnbaum’s story is “Noboru Watanabe,” named after the wife’s brother. Rubin’s absent feline here is “Noboru Wataya,” and also named after the wife’s brother.
Murakami’s Random House website offers a fascinating roundtable discussion about translating Murakami (click on the box marked “Translation” from the main page) – including substantial changes and deletions from the Japanese and American editions (!) – between two of Murakami’s regular translators, Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin, e-chatting with Gary Fisketjon, Murakami’s longtime editor at Knopf. Oh, the many lives (and versions!) of an international publishing phenomenon!
Published: 1997 (United States)