Monday, July 30, 2007

Sputnik Sweetheart

I finished Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart yesterday - another brilliant narrative... though I'm worried that I don't quite get his crazy moments. Just as in After Dark, Sputnik falls upon an undefinable element that could be supernatural or simply illusory elements of mental processes... I'm not sure and I'm not sure I like it.

Sure, I understand its purpose in the narrative - Sputnik certainly feels like a lonely piece; three characters in an incomplete love triangle, sharing the title in the way they attempt to connect but fail to do so because their love is unrequited.

All very interesting, but to what purpose. Maybe MG can help me out to that end? :)

Anyhoo, two particular elements caught my eye:

1. Murakami's choice of character reactions - they're just so perfect, to the point, and well defined. Take this example (Page 51) of Miu's reaction to Sumire:

"You know I've never thought I wanted to be somebody else," Sumire blurted out once, perhaps urged on by the more-than-usual amount of wine she'd drunk. "But sometimes I think how nice it would be to be like you."

Miu held her breath for a moment. Then she picked up her wineglass and took a sip. For a second, the light dyed her eyes the crimson of the wine. Her face was drained of its usual expression.

"I'm sure you don't know this," she said calmly, returning her glass to the table...

2. An absolute brilliant use of Simile to show meaning that is also linked in with the preceding dialogue:

"Hey, if you can't give your opinion about other people, the world would turn into a pretty scary place, wouldn't it? If you don't think so, just look up what Joseph Stalin did."

On the other end of the line Sumire was silent for a long time. A heavy silence like dead souls on the Eastern Front.

"Hello?" I asked.


MG said...

Well, R1X, here's how I read the ending. The telephone call with Sumire at the end is a dream - the clue is in the fact that he falls asleep before receiving it. Subconsciously he's anxious that somehow their relationship has never moved on. Or rather that Sumire has moved on but not him. Whether she's alive or dead - and this ending suggests to me that K believes she is dead - the point is that he's not free of her yet.
Don't ask me that all the stuff about Miu is. There's some weird psycho-sexual stuff going on with her, obviously. I didn't like to think too hard about it...I don't analyse Murakami much at all. I just enjoy the rhythm of his writing, and the metaphor/similies and the emotional impact. I've read reports about fans meeting with him, askign what this symbolises, what that means...and he claims never to know. It is what is is...

R1X said...

Ah, I missed that. Makes an awful lot of sense - I fall into the trap of speeding up as I get towards the end, still expecting some big reveal (as has been the case in the previous genres I've read). Dang! Will have to go back and re-read last couple of chapters.

Thanks ;)

MG said...

The core of this novel probably lies in the short story on which it is based - which is published in 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman'. Sadly I can't remember the name of the story, nor can I look it up because I loaned my copy of BWSW to someone who never returned it...

R1X said...

Ever more intriguing. Thanks

Philip Farrell said...

Reading into Murakami I agree can be a vain endeavour. However, i think there is more to this novel than meets the eye. Of course understanding is relative, but there are some stones unturned that need to be thought about.

1 The music which possessed K near to the mountain top on the island. We are sure this is not a drean.

2. The possession of the boy carrot, and his otherworldy nature. Clearly a boy who doesn't know himself either.

3. The reference to blood at the end. Blood is referenced quite a bit with the theme of sacrifice.

I cannot place points one and two, but I am sure there is something there. Point three however for me is clear.

If the sacrifice of Sumire was a philosophical one then we need not read into it, it is as it is, as MG said. But MG you also believe as I do that K was sure Sumire was dead.

My take is that K comits suicide at the end of the book. He understands that Sumire killed herself to try and gain access to the other world and find a Miu she loves. And he deiceds to do the same. His life is worthless without Sumire in it, and although he regrets that their relationship never moved forward, he does concede in the book that all he wants is to be around her. He kills himself to gain access to a Sumire similar to the one he had before. The dog K scrifices is himself, just as Sumire did to herself somewhere on that island.

a. said...

i'm sure you can find this somewhere on the internet, but i've read this book in czech (i'm from prague:) and there was czech translator's commentary in the end of the book...

it was an explanation of certain things in the book... for instance, why there was Miu? In Japan, homosexuality was never a problem at first, they didn't care as much as in Europe, but then the influence from West was too big and it became more and more wrong to be gay. and since that time it is now somewhere in the society (in Japan), two worlds - the one with faking and controlling oneself, not talking about sexuality, and the second - where you can be 'free' and feel what you want to feel and that is the world where the other half of Miu was.

and also in Japan there is some symbol that is read as 'Miu' which means fake,deception or soemthing like that so it might mean something as well.

And then...Sumire's love for Miu - remember her dream where her mother appeared? That could mean (according to czech translator, i guess he knows what he's talking about:D) that Sumire yearned for a mother, and Miu was a person who she felt in love with also because of that. And in the dream her mother was dragged into 'that' world, the one she can never get into. But she did in the end. Maybe.

And .. i don't know how they translate it in English, but in czech it is that Sumire means Violet (the flower) andSumire's mother favorite song was where the violet was being spepped on and destroyed, which caused it's dissapearance.

and the last thing... the end: K breaks up with his 'girlfriend' because he thinks it is right, he can't live in this deception anymore because he has feeligs for Sumire even though she's away. and because he did the right thing, Sumire comes back to him.

P.S. i really like your interpretation that they killed themselves to get to the other world. but i don't know, it just deosn't seem right in my mid. i have to think about it:) just finished the book.

anyway, the book is fantastic.

Breana said...

Maybe the ending was the narrator making it to the other side, where sumire had ended up. Who knows what the alternate reality posses, maybe after finally making it the other side, he is allowed to pursue his passions, start over, or revisit some of his most cherished moments, some of which are chatting with Sumire at night over the pay phone.....but wouln't they have doubles on the other side? This reminds me of fringe. The ending part about the blood in his hand also confused me....let me continue to read the other posts! It seems like a schizophrenic type novel too...thinking do deeply, making too many connections, but then again, his novels deal with the beauty of confusion, insanity, chaos, depression, turmoil, and sadness - the main reason I love Murakami - there is no happy ending - it is more geared toward reality while at the same time being far from the basis of reality.

Pablo Alvarez Cadenas said...

Very interesting interpretations here! I just literally finished the book. The first thought it came to my head after reading the very last paragraph ("I spread my fingers apart, and stare at the palms of both hands, looking for bloodstains...") is that they are the same person, meaning that Sumire is an imaginary character created by an lonely schizophrenic person. Sumire mentions in the call "I think I cut something's throat" then K. checks for blood in his own hands.

Breana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just finished the book :) I wonder, if Sumire and Miu are the same person. Sumire is Miu, Miu is Sumire. It is funny the entire story that K has never 'met' this lady Sumire calls Miu, they could be different personalities and or identities of Sumire,
I wonder? It's all so fantastic though! Making our kinda turn it's engines to make our own interperatations!