Hear the Wind Sing

Author: Haruki Murakami
Published: 1979
Website: Wikipedia Page

Hear the Wind Sing is Haruki Murakami’s first novel, and its influence on his future work is obvious. Murakami’s work is not formulaic, but he once again has a single male protagonist who discusses life with one male friend and several female friends as he listlessly walks through life. I do not know whether it is fair to compare Hear the Wind Sing to Norwegian Wood because the first was inspired by a (according to Wikipedia) player hitting a ball in a baseball game when he was in his twenties and was his literary debut while Norwegian Wood is a carefully created story with fully described characters; but I cannot help but feel that Hear the Wind Sing was an outline for Norwegian Wood. I am definitely losing a lot in the translation from Japanese to English, and the side-characters in each novel are slightly different, but while two novels by the same author often share subthemes, these two works share almost every theme. The first similarities that spring to mind are: suicides by nearly identical people in each novel greatly influence the nearly identical main male character’s view of life. The protagonist and his male friend in each novel often go to bars and sit for hours while having philosophical discussions. And the magical realism which is so vibrant in many of Murakami’s other work is surprisingly lacking in each of these.

Hear the Wind Sing is not a story with a plot or novel with a purpose. Instead it is a meandering stream-of-ideas novel which chooses to center on two friends. My understanding of the plot and purpose of Hear the Wing Sing can probably best be captured by the fact that after finishing this novel I had no idea what the main character’s name is (which is why this post refers to him in such a clunky manner). Hopefully this is because he is in fact never referred to by name, but if he is then that would not affect the novel at all. The protagonist’s friend is nicknamed The Rat, and besides for The Rat and the bar in which the two friends spend much of their time, the only named character is a fictional author who goes by Derek Heartfield and whose fictional fiction the narrator often spends paragraphs analyzing.

Hear the Wind Sing is confusing, ambiguous, and frustrating, yet I am glad I read it because of the way it reflected on Murakami’s other works. On the other hand if I did not know who Murakami was or if this had been the first Murakami novel I had ever read, I would have been very disappointed.

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