This is my second Murakami. I’m not even close to reading his books in order. I can report that his tone, his “voice” does stay remarkably true over the course of his works.
A Wild Sheep Chase is…well…hard to describe. “Postmodern” and a “work of magical realism” is probably a good a description as any. One part mystery a la Sherlock Holmes, one part epic quest with moral/universal undertones a la Moby Dick, and one part novel of a man coming to turns with his past and middle age. These elements are all there, and yet I have completely failed to capture this book. I mean that in a good way.
It’s surreal. It’s challenging. Things are explained but never fully explained. You will scratch your head over wether half the characters in the book are really real. But I mean this in the best possible way. It’s this aspect that makes Murakami so delightful.
That’s his special genius, is being able to blend the real, surreal, the personal and the philosophical into one (somehow) totally believable story line. My favourite example of this is in Kafka on the Shore, where a character that can talk to cats is so well done that more than just believable, the reader will find himself attempting to talk to cats in all seriousness the next day because of it.
This book is fun to read, but it also makes you think. From the sinister and powerful Organisation Man, the Chauffeur who has God’s phone number, to the Girlfriend whose ears have a sort of cosmic transcendent beauty – it’s a book full of surprises and hinted meanings. I love it when he blends what me be called an internal emotional reality with what seems to be an external reality; leaving the reader to pose the question: is it real? Is it supernatural? What is the meaning of this, or is this a character’s emotion projected on to the outside world?
And I think that his is probably one of my favourite things about Murakami. It’s totally unpredictable. He’s absolutely comfortable leaving loose ends. Of not being clear. Of not coming to conclusions. It all somehow winds up feeling closer to real life than most books.
Any serious reader of novels, anyone who enjoyed Kafka or Gabriel Garcia Marquez will love this book.