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Non-fiction November

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Book of the Month

The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

What begins as a search for a missing cat becomes a search for a missing wife.  Toru Okada is an unemployed legal assistant whose in-laws make it clear in no uncertain terms that he has married above his station.  Focused on finding Kumiko, it becomes evident that brother-in-law Noboru Wataya, a darling of the media, is involved in her disappearance.  Through a series of seemingly chance meetings with people who have hidden supernatural powers, Okada himself is bestowed with the miraculous ability to heal, linked to a blue mark that appears on his right cheek.

Warned by soothsayer and family friend Mr Honda to be wary of water, the Japanese occupation of Manchuria before and during the Second World War, a baseball bat, and water become running themes throughout the story.  Okada becomes drawn to the abandoned ‘hanging house’ and it’s dried up well next door.  Descending into the well to ‘think’, he is pulled through its concrete sides and into another world of darkened hotel rooms and encounters with mysterious women.  Believing this other world is the key to finding Kumiko, Okada must find a way back there.

As a student of Japanese, I find reading novels such as this in their original form is an essential immersive practice.  Internationally renowned author Haruki Murakami’s ‘Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ is regarded as one of his best works, with the themes of men searching for women and ‘isekai’ being revisited in subsequent outings.  His description here of the torture of army officer Yamamoto during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol is a truly terrifying stand-out moment.  If you find your way into reading ‘Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ I would love to hear your thoughts and the opportunity to compare the English translation with the original.

Mr Bradburn

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