The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

November 22, 2011

The last time David and I went away, I did two of my favorite things while he attended meetings: I walked several miles and I read a book. While at home, in between other responsibilities and interests, I do these same things, and have been working on a 600 page book the past couple of weeks. I finished it, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, this morning. It was too long and I gave too much of my life to it not to preserve a piece of it somewhere, and after failing at posting a doc on our high school book chat group’s facebook page TWICE, I decided that this needed to be where it was going to happen.

Each reader enters into any story from his own perspectives, stories and experiences–with his own reasons–and I started this journey because our daughter loved the book and I wanted to share it with her. So it was commitment, but also curiosity, that saw me through to the end.

It was a strange, surreal tale that was threaded through with confusion but there was also a subtle strength and tender tenacity that carried Toru, the husband and main character, through to an ending filled with hope and beauty. The words of Kumiko, his wife, (who had left him), follow.

If it hadn’t been for you, I would have lost my mind long ago. I would have handed myself over, vacant, to someone else and fallen to a point beyond hope of recovery…..

The freedom to do anything at all was taken from me, and I shut myself up in a dark room, alone. No one chained me down or set a guard to watch over me, but I could not have escaped. My brother held me with yet stronger chains and guards–chains and guards that were myself. I was the chain that bit into my ankle, and I was the ruthless guard that never slept. Inside me, of course, there was a self that wanted to escape, but at the same time there was a cowardly, debauched self that had given up all hope of ever being able to flee from there, and the first self could never dominate the second…I had defiled myself irreparably.

…my brother…may have opened some kind of drawer inside me, taken out some kind of incomprehensible something….My brother had that kind of power, and as much as I hate to acknowledge it, the two of us were surely tied together in some dark place.

…I had…defiled myself beyond all cleansing….In spite of all this,…I was never able to feel at the time that I was wronging you in any way. What I was doing seemed entirely natural to me–though I can only imagine that it was not the real me that felt that way. Could this be true, though? Is the answer really so simple? And if so, what, then, is the real me?

I often used to dream of you–vivid dreams with clear-cut stories. In these dreams, you were always searching desperately for me. We were in a kind of labyrinth, and you would come almost up to where I was standing. ‘Take one more step! I’m right here!’ I wanted to shout, and if only you would find me and take me in your arms, the nightmare woud end and everything would go back to the way it was. But I was never able to produce that shout. And you would miss me in the darkness and go straight ahead past me and disappear. It was always like that. But still, those dreams helped and encouraged me. At least I still had the power to dream, I knew. My brother couldn’t prevent me from doing that. I was able to sense that you were doing everything in your power to draw nearer to me. Maybe someday you would find me, and hold me, and sweep away the filth that was clinging to me, and take me away from that place forever. Maybe you would smash the curse and set the seal so that the real me would never have to leave again. That was how I was able to keep a tiny flame of hope alive in that cold, dark place with no exit–how I was able to preserve the slightest remnant of my own voice.(pp 602-603)

Toru did search for Kumiko, and he did find her. And for me, the picture at the end of the story of Toru’s pursuing one whom he loved was reminiscent of another sweet, old story. He was rejected, but was one whose desperate devotion to another (even one who saw herself as without worth), filled the ending with a lightness and a loveliness that lingered past the last page, and I didn’t want it to end. That is something that never fails to move me. I hope it’s always that way.

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