” I once had a girl
Or should I say, she once had me?”
Published in 1987 in Japan, but not printed in the west until 2000, Norwegian Wood was the book that sent Haruki Murakami into the ranks of that country’s all-time great authors. Written in Greece and Italy with fountain pen following the technical masterpiece Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Murakami initially thought the next book would be around 350 manuscript pages (a traditional Japanese manuscript page allows 400 characters); it turned into something much longer, much greater.
On the surface, Noruwei no mori (literal translation A Forest in Norway) is a story of young love, but as Murakami states himself
I next wrote a straight boy-meets-girl story called Norwegian Wood after the Beatles’ tune. Many of my readers thought that Norwegian Wood was a retreat for me, a betrayal of what my works had stood for until then. For me personally, however, it was just the opposite; it was an adventure, a challenge. I had never written that kind of straight, simple story, and I wanted to test myself.
So, let the Ordinary Times book club delve into this masterpiece. At just under 300 pages and 11 chapters, we should be able to make good time. I think two weeks is ample time to pick up a copy (common in most bookstores and libraries, available in audio, electronic and paperback. I don’t suggest looking for a hard cover as it was only published as a limited edition) and read the first three chapters, about 45 pages. I have the Jay Rubin translation, but the Birnbaum version is supposedly quite good also.
Please join us for the adventure of great literature!
Note – This book does contain scenes of ’60’s radicalism. If the dialog gets too heated for a Sunday! we will start a side post to handle it.