Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Murakami on more surreal form
on 18 November 2009
Murakami on his more surreal form. If his books are written along the lines of a freestyle jazz piece, than A Wild Sheep Solo would be the xylophone solo. Purposeful and structured but an oddity all the same.
The book is based around a central character looking for a sheep, that had taken possession of the head of a powerful political organization but was now lost, and without it he will be unable to survive. The search takes him away from his job, his home, his girlfriend and into the depths of the Japanese Mountains.
We are back on Murakami's central motif here - characters lost or at a junction, in a world that they cannot understand, a world that is human but not at the same time. Here though the main character is anonymous - with no name and no real existence. In fact his only real trait is that he is as ordinary as he can possibly be. He is only given meaning by others - by the search for the sheep, the letter from The Rat (his previous acquaintance) taking him on journeys he would otherwise not have made.
To me this is all about the transience of self. Here we have a person who has built up a life, a wife, a business, but who is then transformed quite arbitrarily into a completely different world and existence, where sheep possess humans and women have incredibly attractive ears. Indeed it is the ears that start the whole plot off - an idea of new sensory perception perhaps? Could this happen to any of us?
From here it is the quest for the sheep that dominates, and a journey into old Japan, a Japan that is being lost in the new world, where the old towns and settlements are simply disappearing off the map. In fact times seems to be passing in a similar way, to the sense of nihilism that dominates the book. In this world it is something as arbitrary to a sheep that can change an individual. What else?
The only God is that of the sheep, it is the permanent soul of a transcendental world, looking for somewhere else to lie but finding nowhere. As such it sits dormant back amongst nature, on a mountain with his flock. With the soul removed we no longer dream, we are happy just to be ordinary. All ideals are false - men in sheep outfits.
The book is a homage to the hard boiled novel of Chandler and Hammett - individuals removed of hope and morality in a post-depression, mid-war world, on a search for criminals not for redemption, but just because this is what they do. Things will happen and there is nothing they can do about, it is only the relentless pursuits of time that is a constant. When this stops, existence does not continue.
In this respect is A Wild Sheep Chase a post-modern novel - trying to find new meaning in a world of where nothing is new and different - or is it all a bit frivolous and eventually meaningless. Or are those exactly the same things in the first place? Whatever it is there is definitely something new about it and for me that gives it a value, even it all turns about to be as meaningless as a sheep lying in a field, waiting for something to happen.