Readers Write In #427: Norwegian Wood

Posted on November 21, 2021


(by Lahari)

One of Murakami’s bestseller, as the name suggests is filled with pop references like The Beatles and is a gripping story about the perks of being in your 20’s. This murakami’s work has so much more than that.

“Death is not the exact opposite of life, but just a part of it” I could remember this line vividly, even after of weeks reading the book. Everybody who read this book has either told me it’s a lovestory or a guide to 1960s pop music. But the part that intrigiued me most was how Murakami talks about different people deal with post death trauma and how people should just thrive through it.

So many characters die in the book and each character deal with those deaths in a different way. Murakami has a very different style of describing each character in a very authentic and weirdly real way.

First the protagonist, Watnabe has to face the death of his best friend(kizuki). And then his girlfriend dies by suicide too. After her death we can see his most vulnerable phase, he travels alone without enough money, no food, doesn’t stay clean. A man’s grief is described so beautifully, considering this book was written in 80s when a man being vulnerable was considered too “feminine” or not being “manly”.

Naoko(watnabe’s girlfriend) on the other hand has to face the death of her childhood friend kizuki’s death and her sister’s death. Throughout the book she always isn’t too expressive or not vocal about it. Later, we can get to know that she had been mentally traumatized by both the deaths which led to her silence about them. She later commits suicide even after getting the help she needs.

When naoko dies, her roommate who had been with the her in the therapy sessions leaves that place forever and comes out to the real world. Nothing was able to move her out of that place for more than 7 years. But Naoko who has spent just about an year with her did.

Writing with a personal experience on dealing with death, I think our response to death is mostly denial in the beginning. Our brains just cant process that a particular person is no more in the world until something big happens which makes us realize that a person is dead and we cant talk or spend time with them. Naoko response was similar Kizuki was the only person she loved truly for so many years, when he died her first response was denial, she doesn’t talk about it and always looks for distractions rather than feeling those emotions. When she starts to fall in love with watnabe, she realizes that Kizuki is no more and that’s when her mental condition worsens.

Every feeling and emotion needs to be felt at one point or the other. What Murakami highlights is whatever the emotion is our only work is figure out how to come out of it alive. Like death is just a mere part of one’s life.