Revisiting Norwegian Wood in Japanese: Knots of Air (Week 1)

Revisiting Murakami’s Norwegian Wood is like a nightmare that has come back to haunt you. I’ve recoiled at the mere mention of its name, inspiring dread and boredom. I remember reading it back in high school at Singapore; I was sixteen maybe and was sitting on this one bench on the third floor that oversaw the whole field. My copy was from Heathrow Airport’s book store and Murakami was my first real contemporary writer. I’ve also bought Naomi (痴人の愛) by Junichiro Tanizaki and After Dark by Murakami, both I love very dearly. But Norwegian Wood, despite having the title of a decent Beatles track, had fogged up my memory. I couldn’t recall any sort of memory reading it except images, scenes, and the numerous sex scenes. And oh yes, the tanks. The memories were all turning into mud, just dirty mud that got stuck on your boot.

Now, I’m twenty-two in Chicago and one of the class texts is, of course, Norwegian Wood. I have to study it for its writing techniques and other writerly things. I love my fate, thank you very much Nietzsche, so I shall stay for the night to write a response on the first few fifty pages. “But wait,” I said to my professor, “may I read this book in Japanese?” My professor was all excited and said, “Yes, please tell us how different it is.”

I have actually told my professor that Murakami reads basically the same as translations, but the fear of “losing meaning” in translations shall always override any reason. Continue reading