My thoughts on Norwegian Wood



WARNING
The following text contains spoilers for the book "Norwegian Wood" authored by Haruki Murakami.
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Touru Watanabe now a middle-aged man, boarded a plane from Hamburg, Germany. As he rested on his seat, the sweet music of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood' filled his ears. Soon he found himself lost in the old memories. With those memories came the remembrance of a forgotten promise. A promise he had made to Naoko to always remember her, to cherish her memory. It was then that Watanabe decided to write a book to immortalize his memory of Naoko. As Watanabe journeys through his memories, we live and learn from his experiences. We see the effects of changing relationships. How pettiest of our actions can leave a mark so deep that it renders someone beyond repair.

Norwegian Wood is the most popular book written by Haruki Murakami. The lucid writing takes us back to the late 60s Tokyo, to the youth of Touru Watanabe the narrator. Most readers consider it to be a romantic coming of age story. But I felt that the gravity of this book cannot be expressed in such a shallow label. Murakami has devised the use of subtexts throughout the story. Besides the main aim of the plot, the story also educates us about the culture and life of people of that era.
As Watanabe relives his memories we get to experience his feelings and dilemmas. His dilemma to hold on to his promise or listen to his heart and be happy. The book takes the coming of age issues like depression, mental illness, and casual sex. 
One thing I can say about Norwegian Wood is that you may love it or you may hate it. But it will change the way you look at human relationships forever.

Like many of the readers who are new to Murakami's literature, I too was unable to "digest" the ending of the book. It took me about three to four reads to understand that the book is about Naoko and her memory alone. Which Touru tries to immortalize by writing the book. In fact, Watanabe explicitly mentions this in the prologue. Norwegian Wood was never a story about Touru Watanabe or his love story. It was a story about Naoko and it ends with her death. So it was never the plot concern to conclude the love story of Watanabe and Midori Kobayashi. In fact, as John Green writes in The Fault in our Stars "They all [the characters] cease to exists once the novel ends. It is stupid to believe there is life after the end of the novel".

Another subtext, that I found amusing was the personification of 'a hurting past' and 'a happy present' as Naoko and Midori. And like many of us, Touru finds himself in the dilemma of keeping his promise to Naoko and hold on to a hurting past or move on to lead a  happy and cheerful well-settled life with Midori.

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