A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase” is the last novel from Haruki Murakami I’ve read. It is also the last one I had to read to finish reading all his novels in English, the next challenge is to read all of them one more time but in Japanese. Some of the conversations in this novel reminded me The Castle (Franz Kafka), that happens to be one Haruki Murakami’s favorite novels and he confeses he is greatly influenced by Kafka.

A Wild Sheep Chase” is about sheep. 300 pages about sheep? Yes it is about sheep, but not really about sheep. And yes! it is interesting to read, is even more than that, I think it is magic to read. It is amazing how a storyline that looks normal at the beginning starts to warp, and change and become surrealistic but still feeling “normal”. This mastery changing from normal to surrealistic without feeling anything artificial is a typical Murakami pattern found in many of his novels. It is also typical that the protagonist has no name, in fact in this novel none of the characters has a name, they all have weird nicknames. This no-name thing is not only typical in Murakami’s novels, it is pretty common in Japanese literature, manga and anime, do you have any idea why?

If you have never read a Haruki Murakami novel, what are you waiting for? I’m sure you will love it, or not like it.

Here I quote some interesting bits and pieces from “A Wild Sheep Chase“:

“This way by no means a criticism of you. Or to put it more simply, it is because the world itself is so mediocre that you are mediocre as such. Do you not agree?”

“Nice kitty-kitty,” said the chauffeur, hand not outstretched. “What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have a name.”
“So what do you call the fella?”
“I don’t call it, ” I said. “It’s just there”
“But he’s not a lump just sitting there. He moves about by his own will, no? Seems mighty strange that something that moves by its own will doesn’t’ have a name.”
“Herring swim around of theri own will, but nobody gives them names.”
“Well, first of all, there’s no emotional bond between herring and people, and besides, they wouldn’t know their name if they heard it.”
…….
“Don’t mind in the least. But what name?”
“How about ‘Kipper’? I mean you were treating him him like a herring after all.”
“Not bad,” I said.
“You see?” said the chauffeur.
“What do you think?” I asked my girlfriend.
“Not bad,” she said. “It’s like being witness to the creation of heaven and earth.”
“Let there be Kipper”. I said.

“Remember the name of your cat?”
“Kipper,” I reply.
“No, it’s not Kipper,” the chauffeur says. “The name’s already changed. Names change all the time. I bet you can’t even remember your own name”

Sheep
Sheep picture taken by my friend Albert who is living now in Scotland.

10 Comments
  • Karasu-kun

    August 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Wild Sheep Chase is absolutely brilliant, he really grabs ahold of the metaphysical side of life and shakes it in this book. Have you even read his non-fiction book about the 1995 Tokyo Aum-Shinrikyo gas attack? He just came out with a memoir here in English as well. My favorite still has to be the first book I read by him, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, that book was so genius, so genuinely engaging that it actually inspired me to start writing again after a long hiatus. The only book of his that I found lacking in certain respects was After Dark, and even that was good, sans the oblique part about the girl and her sister.

  • BKrish

    August 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Wild Sheep Chase really is a great book. It was the first I read of Murakami. Did you know it sort-of precedes Dance Dance Dance? They can be read out of order without missing much though. I also find Hard-Boiled Wonderland his best – the only one I’ve reread…but now you’ve got me feeling I should read Wild Sheep Chase again.

  • kirai

    August 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    BKrish: yes, I read Dance, Dance, Dance before 🙂

    Karasu-ku: After Dark… maybe is too short, or it looks unfinished but I think is also great. Nothing happens but many things happen in that short novel.

  • oliphant

    August 19, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Murakami is brilliant! The first ones I read were Norwegian Wood and Wild Sheep Chase. I’ve pretty much been combing through all his English translated novels in my library for a whole year, and I can’t get enough. Currently reading Hard Boiled Wonderland.

    But I’ll probably be pretty sad when I run out of Murakami to read. Time to learn Japanese then. :p I’ve always been suspiscious of translated works and how that stack up against the original, so what do you think?

  • Neil Duckett

    August 19, 2008 at 4:51 am

    Probably a little over my head …. what is “metaphysical side of life” anyway?!

  • Karasu-kun

    August 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Metaphysics meaning the nature of the soul, what exactly is existence, can we truly know ourselves, is there a single self or many selves to us that change depending on who is viewing us, philosophical stuff, the intangible parts of life, pure speculation. =P In the book there’s a character called “The Rat” and towards the end it is revealed that the main character is speaking to his ghost. So you’re left wondering if he’s really speaking to the ghost of his dead friend or if he’s projecting thoughts of his own outwardly to create the scenario in the book. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic gist.

  • Karasu-kun

    August 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Hector: Yeah I totally agree about After dark appearing “unfinished” as you say. It was probably the word I was searching for to describe it. Murakami’s works all have universal themes, and so it often creates the illusion of a lot happening but really it’s what a character made to eat, how they ate it and the description of their surroundings in painstaking detail. However, I like this, so…

  • Karasu-kun

    August 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Sorry for 1000 posts here, but is it really such a common thing in anime/manga to have no name? Most all of the anime I’ve watched and manga I’ve read takes great pains to make the characters’ names very well known. I know in Gundam 00, which I just finished watching, it was even stranger still that the main chars were nakama and called each other by their full names a lot in the series, even up until the last episode.

  • kirai

    August 20, 2008 at 3:10 am

    I mean… sometimes they play with the no-name thing. Think about Chihiro or about Ponyo for example.

  • Anonymous

    August 20, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Murakami is awesome.

    After reading Norweigan Wood, I felt so lonely that I hit the bars for a week.

    That’s how awesome Murakami is.