World Literature

Fifteen ways to tell if you’re living in a Haruki Murakami novel

Disappearing cats, empty wells and mysterious women, Murakami’s world is yours if any of these feels like your life.

You don’t have to read all of his novels or short stories to know that Haruki Murakami, a self-confessed recluse, comes up with characters, plots and ideas that border on the absurd almost naturally, and yet is able to make it all seem believable.

Whether it is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, or any of his other successful works, Murakami’s understanding of mildly magically realistic phenomena does leav you squirming in a combination of delight and discomfort, doesn’t it?

These instances and events may seem unreal to Murakami muggles, but a true fan will see nothing but absolute normalcy. And with his latest work in English translation, Wind/Pinball (his first novellas, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973), now out, the temptation to relate to the situations and characteristics of Murakami’s people is hard to contain.

Here are fifteen ways to know whether you’re actually living in a Haruki Murakami novel. (Try to identify the novels too.)

# 1: You happen to come across a dry well and suddenly have the urge to climb down into the darkness. The bottom of the well seems to be the most ideal place to sit and ponder about what’s happening in your life. To give you company is a baseball bat that you clutch with all your strength

# 2: Your best friends suddenly stop being friends with you. They begin to avoid you and eventually, cut off all ties with you. You continue to live with the misery and confusion of not knowing what went wrong. All you can do is blame yourself.

# 3: You are uncomfortable around most humans and have acquired this extraordinary ability to speak to stray cats. They speak back to you and it’s perfectly normal for you sit by their side and strike a conversation

# 4: Your wife has left you and so has your cat. And now you have the company of a strange woman who keeps calling you with unusual requests

# 5: Just when you think things are going well with your girlfriend, she decides to part with you suddenly to go live in a sanatorium. And to make things worse, she kills herself; she takes with her the reason why she left you in the first place, making you live in great misery for life.

# 6: You find solace in ironing clothes. It takes your mind off a lot of things and calms you in a way nothing else does.

# 7: A strange man visits your bar every day. He never talks to anyone and is forever engrossed in his book. He’s not your friend or acquaintance, but decides to help you escape during impending trouble. And you, instead of trusting your instincts, believe him and go away.

# 8: You love cooking spaghetti to perfection, in al dente form, but you’re not a gourmet. You can make do with a simple sandwich and a can of beer. Wasting time on deciding what to eat isn’t your thing – you’d rather sit on a bench and mull over what is and what used to be.

# 9: If you’re a man, sex for you is a mere physical need and you’re usually found in the company of older or married women who’re neither too clingy nor too demanding. They let you be and never interfere in your stream of thoughts. Love, of course, is a different ball game altogether, something that has always eluded you.

# 10: If you’re a woman, you’re mysterious. You express your emotions in bits and pieces and ensure that your lover/husband/admirer is perplexed to the point of being driven crazy.

# 11: You dig old jazz records and classical music.

# 12: Your belief in a parallel universe is rock solid. You know you’ll meet your childhood sweetheart in a world where the sky has two moons. Your actions are driven by your instincts and intuitions.

# 13: You’re a great listener and can spend hours listening to people’s stories. Also, you’re never in a hurry and usually have all the time in the world – to take a spontaneous trip to Greece, to take up an assassination assignment, and so on.

# 14: An ordinary birthday becomes extraordinary when you accidentally meet a person who makes your deepest wish come true.

# 15: A library feels like home. Always. You could practically live inside it.

The cheat-sheet:
1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
2. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

3. Kafka on the Shore
4. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
5. Norwegian Wood
6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
7. Kino (short story)
8. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
9. 1Q84
10. Sputnik Sweetheart
11. All novels
12. 1Q84
13. Sputnik Sweetheart / 1Q84
14. Birthday Girl (short story)
15. Kafka on the Shore


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