Friday, August 21, 2009

I finished Life of Pi and my first Haruki Murakami book. I didn't manage to get Kafka on the Shore from the library, so I settled on Sputnik Sweetheart.

I'm reminded of the old adage 'never judge a book by its cover'. The bright colours and cartoony illustration on the cover of Life of Pi gave me the impression of a quirky, delightful book. The synopsis certainly sounded quirky: a 16-year old Indian boy trapped on a lifeboat in open sea after a shipwreck, with the company of a Royal Bengal tiger. The contents were actually quite grotesque with Pi descending to a level of primitive savagery and even cannibalism, all described in a graphic manner. Want a taste of it? Here's an excerpt of Pi slaughtering a sea turtle:

"I took hold of a hatchet and brought it down on the turtle's neck, gashing it. Bright red blood shot out. I grabbed the beaker and collected about three hundred millimetres, a pop can's worth... I took a sip. It tasted warm and animal... I drank the blood to the last drop."

I think what gets me is not only the vivid descriptions but the matter-of-fact tone, as if all these are just routine activities and part-and-parcel of life (which they are for Pi). As passive readers sitting at home, we can't help but shift uncomfortably in our seats. Our sympathy for Pi can only extend to a certain point. The fact is, unless we're in the same predicament ourselves, we can't imagine behaving the same way. I don't think I'll be flipping through Life of Pi much. I'm too weak-hearted to stomach the violence depicted, however necessary it is.

I'm drawn to Murakami's writing, however. I find that it has verisimilitude tinged with edginess. His novels seem to contain dark, surreal elements that add another dimension to the real world. There was one part of Sputnik Sweetheart that struck me particularly- the image of a young woman trapped in a Ferris wheel at night, who looked into her own apartment and saw her doppelganger with a man. To me it's a disturbing, surrealistic touch that reveals the inner fears and desires of an individual, and perhaps offers an insight into human nature as well. I'm sufficiently intrigued to want to read Kafka on the Shore now.


CANDY DOLL said...

Oh wow!!! I love Haruki Murakami so much!!! I hope I could read more of his books. :D

Elisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elisha said...

I've read Life of Pi.
At first, I was overwhelmed with all the deep words the author uses. Then when I already understood all the deep words, I found it very entertaining. It's an amusing book and it gives you a preview of animal behavior as well as a reflection of human behavior. I even found some scenes humorous. It's a beautiful novel. However, I wasn't able to finish it. I have a weak heart. I was able to brave gore details of the hyena eating the leg of a live zebra and yes, also the how to eat an exotic turtle guide. Then there came a point where Pi tried to eat the tiger's poop... I immediately closed the book and never opened it again. That was the limit of what I could stomach.

I've heard a lot about Haruki Murakami. I have a friend who is a BIG fan of him. I've read Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance and a few excerpts from his other books. I love his surrealistic touch too. I've been wanting to read Sputnik Sweetheart, but my time couldn't permit me.

You have a wonderful blog here. Keep it up!

Mine's here:

I don't take care of my blog very well though. I'm in college too and it got me busy busy busy.

kafkascampi said...

Hi there

I wouldn't recommend Kafka on the Shore as a good intro to Murakami. I'd start with Wild Sheep Chase or Hard-Boiled Wonderland--or even Norwegian Wood for a more realistic book. I'm a huge fan and hope you enjoy his work. That said, I think his last couple of efforts have been sub-par.