Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sputnik Sweetheart
by Haruki Murakami

Published: 2002
Genre: Japanese
Paperback: 224 pages
Rating: 4

Description from the amazon:
Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves.

A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments–until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, “K” is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing.

My two-bits:
In-a-word(s): lonely lumps of metal

When I found that the March task for Hello Japan challenge was to read something by Haruki Murakami, I just had to pull out my one and only Murakami book in my tbr pile to finally read.

I had purchased this book based on all the good reviews I've heard about Murakami in general. I liked the cover and the title was interesting. The description of the book didn't play too much of a role in this purchase for me. Goes to show how Murakami's name packs a punch.

The story was engaging with mystery and some surrealism. A bit of a love triangle plays out with boy who likes girl, who likes another girl. And, the topic of loneliness is a biggee.

I enjoyed the thoughts on writing and the writing process described. Learning tidbits about the writing craft are always interesting to me.

I admit there were some huh? moments for me. But not enough to discourage me from reading and enjoying the book. It was mostly during the surreal parts.

I should also mention that the ending of the story thumped me. argh.

Sputnik = fellow traveller

Amusing quote:
What I've written here is a message to myself. I toss it into the air like a boomerang. It slices through the dark, lays the little soul of some poor kangaroo out cold, and finally comes back to me. But the boomerang that returns is not the same one I threw. (page 141, chapter 11)

After I read Murakami's wikipedia entry and found that his first job was in a record store, it struck me that the two characters in Sputnik Sweetheart, K and Sumire, share his interest of music, books and writing. Always a neat-o moment when you see a literal connection between author and their works.

According to wikipedia:
"K", the narrator, is a markedly different protagonist from those of Murakami's other novels. He is considerably less given to or adept at wisecracks, maintains a respectable and stable profession as a schoolteacher, and is less self-confident and much more introverted and conflicted than any other Murakami protagonist.

So, now I'm curious of the type of characters Murakami usually writes about. I want to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next.

Interesting Murakami tidbit from wikipedia:
Many of his novels have themes and titles referring to classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini's opera overture), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute).

Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells' song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles' song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

This wiki entry got me jazzed. I've been meaning to do a couple posts on the creation of music based on literature. Consider this just the beginning of such posts.

There is also a reference In Sputnik Sweetheart. In the story the character, Sumire, is named after the music piece The Violet by Mozart which was based on the poem by Goethe. From the poem (see below), the theme of unrequited love rings true in both the poem and Sputnik Sweetheart.

Side note:
I was treated to a performance of The Violet by the Cypress String Quartet last month. Beautiful piece!

The Violet
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1775)

UPON the mead a violet stood,
Retiring, and of modest mood,

In truth, a violet fair.
Then came a youthful shepherdess,
And roam'd with sprightly joyousness,
And blithely woo'd

With carols sweet the air

"Ah!" thought the violet, "had I been
For but the smallest moment e'en

Nature's most beauteous flower,
'Till gather'd by my love, and press'd,
When weary, 'gainst her gentle breast,
For e'en, for e'en

One quarter of an hour!"

Alas! alas! the maid drew nigh,
The violet failed to meet her eye,

She crush'd the violet sweet.
It sank and died, yet murmur'd not:
"And if I die, oh, happy lot,
For her I die,

And at her very feet!"

*** Sputnik Sweetheart Book Giveaway ***

Wanna give this a read?

Open to all.

Offer ends April 11, 2010


Go to the Hello Japan March Task page that includes other posts about Haruki Murakami and

1. along with this post read at least one other post on the Mr Linky list

2. comment on that other post

3. come back here and let me know who you visited

If your blogger profile does not have your contact email and you want to be notified via email then include your email in comments too. OR you can check back to see if you are the winner - usually posted within 2 days of the deadline date.


* image source Sputnik2

* source poem

* part of Hello Japan mini-challenge hosted by In Spring It Is The Dawn, March Task - to appreciate Haruki Murakami

* part of Bottoms Up Reading Challenge

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