Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.
-Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
Three years ago, if you asked me who my favorite author was, I’d answer “Haruki Murakami” in a heartbeat. Yes, I was low-key obsessed with Murakami. Reading all Murakami’s novels and short stories was on the top of my to-do list. Since his books were ridiculously overpriced in Indonesia, I decided to borrow from libraries/relatives and illegally download a script or two from the internet. My very first Murakami read was Norwegian Wood. I was 16 at that time. Little did I know that Norwegian Wood was Murakami’s most “ordinary” work. The more I indulged myself in his other novels, the more I thought about how crazy but brilliant this guy was!
At that time, I was extremely proud of myself, “Hell yeah, I am still in high school, yet I’ve already devoured most of Murakami’s books. I might be ugly.. But I feel unreasonably intelligent”. No kidding — at that time, I quickly assumed myself as a smart bitch, only because I read Murakami’s work.
News Flash! Reading Murakami does not make me look smarter, cooler, or more artsy. I am still pathetic and ugly—basically, I still ain’t shit.
Fast-forward to me circa 2016 (a year-2 reluctant college student), I began to realize that some of Murakami’s novels were just full of pointless bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I do love most of his novels, especially Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Also, his short stories struck the feeling of home, and After Dark still gives me chill up until now. Bullshit here refers more to his ambiguous work such as Kafka on the Shore, Dance Dance Dance, and IQ84. Once, Murakami told an interviewee that he let his readers do their own interpretations on his writings. I did enjoy reading IQ84 (although some of the parts made me go nuts), but Kafka on the Shore and Dance Dance Dance? I was blown away by their obscurity. I know that I’m supposed to read his earlier novels to understand Dance Dance Dance, as it’s part of a trilogy. I also comprehend the fact that he’s a surrealist writer. Nonetheless, I crave for answers and clarity.
I absolutely can’t deny that Murakami is a passionate and sophisticated writer. I mean, even his personal life is atypical. Growing up in Kyoto during post World War II baby boom, Murakami constantly exposed himself to Kobo Abe’s novels and Western cultures. Some of his favorite authors were Jack Kerouac, Charles Dickens, and Franz Kafka. Murakami’s love for jazz music led him to open up his own jazz club, before becoming a writer. That’s why most of his work has similar premises—jazz music, graphic sex depiction, surrealism, western literature. And cats, lots of cats. Delicious food, too. My favorite parts are the meal making descriptions (Murakami seems to favor spaghetti).
As much as I want to let myself be bored by his cliche themes, I just can’t. I am always sucked by the comfort of his beautiful yet vague words. For example, I read South of the Border, West of the Sun when I was a senior in high school.
Definitely did not understand the ending or purpose of the whole story, but I found myself truly engulfed in his writing. It seems that the ambiguity of his work is compensated by the beauty of his words. Murakami wrote a couple of interesting non-fictions; one of them (Underground) is about the 1995 sarin gas attack in the busiest Tokyo subway. The people’s experiences were devastating and downright scary: imagine yourself being trapped in a closeted space with poisonous gas (sounds like Nazi’s concentration camp to me). My most favorite Murakami novels are Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and IQ84. IQ84 is a wackier version of George Orwell’s 1984 — I have conflicted feelings towards that particular book, also Murakami in general. I read IQ84 when I was a senior in high school and endured through the 1000+ pages, which I both enjoyed and despised.
I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle before taking my uni’s entrance exam (I didn’t get in the university though). The novel’s whole theme is basically about well (jurang, in Bahasa Indonesia). All of the characters are neatly connected despite their eclectic backgrounds and personalities.
Now, if you ask who my favorite author is, I’ll answer with a shrug. Truth is, I just don’t know. It might be Natsuo Kirino, or George Orwell.. Or even Anne Frank. I don’t read Murakami anymore, but I’ll certainly write reviews of his novels in the mere future!