The Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
This slender, haunting novel follows Sumire, a typically strange Murakami protagonist who wanders through life trying to be a writer until she falls passionately in love with Miu, a sophisticated businesswoman. The story has all the existential questioning of J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Donna Tartt's The Secret History. The narrator is "K" (surely no relation), who fell in love with Sumire when they were in college together. The narrative follows Sumire as she becomes attracted to Miu, goes to work for her, and eventually travels Europe with her, ending up on an unnamed Greek island where things go horribly awry. It's a pleasure to watch the intersection of cultures as the characters come together in Greece, both because of Murakami's keen eye for the real and for the crisp, clear prose of this translation by Philip Gabriel.
As in Murakami's other novels, the nature of reality is plastic in this otherwise mainstream novel. By hewing so close to reality, the author leaves the true nature of the events reported for the reader to decide. Is what he describes reality, fantasy? The subtle changes he rings on a world we think we know, and the stealthy unfolding of the strange events, will lull you into complacency, so that when the real becomes surreal (unreal?), it's difficult to look back and indentify the point at which things began to change. At just over two hundred pages, this focused, spare novel is a great place for readers new to Murakami to start.