Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

sputnikThis is another poignant and unique offering from Murakami. I love his writing and the translations read well (although as to their accuracy I cannot testify, being less than fluent in Japanese!). I certainly won’t talk too much about the plot as, for me, each Murakami novel needs to be approached for the first time without preconceived ideas. This is, on the surface, a simple tale of unrequited love. The narrator, a male teacher, in love with his friend, a girl. She, in turn, is in love with a sophisticated older woman she met at a wedding and continued on to work for. As usual, Murakami’s treatment of love is subtle, poignant and tasteful.

This is where the book begins to depart from the norm. With a backdrop of normality, Murakami introduces his own ‘magic’ storylines that depart from reality but remain very real to the reader. It is very alien to the western mind – there is something very Japanese about it, in a similar spirit to Miyazaki’s animation and completely apart from any flights of fancy I’ve come across in western writing. The reader is left to put their own interpretation on the events of the novel and choose how far to take Murakami’s description of events as literal.

In translated novels, you are so dependent on the translator’s skill to let you appreciate the flair and language of the original. Read in translation, this book carried a depth of language and richness of evocative description, both of places and emotions. It reads well and in an unstilted manner. How closely this matched the sense of the original I cannot say, but I believe that anyone skilled enough to translate something that reads so well in English will have been true to the author’s original words.

I would certainly recommend this highly and would suggest that even if you are a reader who prefers to read more literal novels, it is worth giving Murakami a try. It might surprise you!

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