I recently came into the possession of two novels, both of them by acclaimed author Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood and After Dark. I feel guilty for not discovering him earlier. In fact I only realized his existence after reading over a list of foreign writers we could use for our World Literature essays (HAHAHAHAHA IB), and went “Wait! This guy’s Japanese!” So yes. I started reading his work purely based on race. Shut up.
I can immediately say that they’re fantastic reads, and entertaining for anyone who wants to read emotional drama. Murakami’s style and prose captures the essence of the characters he writes. I was honestly amazed with some of the writing in Norwegian Wood, just how gripping the content was, no matter how little actually happened. After Dark was a little less impressive because while it had the same style as Norwegian Wood, it didn’t have the same intrinsic value as Norwegian Wood. Let me explain, Norwegian Wood takes place in Japan during the 70s, and talks about the alienation of people in that era. If looked at logically, the narrator does nothing but listen to long monologues for most of the book, and yet so much of what is being said is interesting it doesn’t matter.
After Dark has much more happen, while less is being said outright. Though there is merit in delivering a novel like that, the problem with After Dark is that Murakami doesn’t pull it off. The story seems to build up to a climax that doesn’t exist. The characters certainly develop, and most of the problems have resolutions, except for two. And if you read it you might get the same feeling. The odd sensation that you’ve missed 5 or 6 pages somewhere that delivered important plot information, and maybe I did. I certainly did read it late at night. However, in Norwegian Wood, you’ll know the climax what you see it. It’s the beginning of a soul crushing chapter, written in font slightly bigger than the rest. Based just on this I have to say Norwegian Wood is the better of the two books.
WARNING – WARNING – MATURE SUBJECT MATTER AHEAD. IF YOU’RE TWELVE OR ACT LIKE YOU ARE STOP READING.
Regardless, what prompted me to write this article is not eloquence, it was sex, to be honest. Norwegian Wood is full of sex. It’s justifiable, since this novel takes place during a time were sex among teenagers began to be a way to express yourself. You could be rebellious by having sex, or you could prove your love for someone by
breaking the rules to do so. It’s not that it became more acceptable, perhaps more liberal is term. My point was that there are times where the sex seems a little gratuitous and a little awkward. One chapter in which a character stated that she could help if he needed to get rid of some semen strikes me particularly. It puts the act of sex as a passé action, but also makes it seem generous, as if the act is a private moment of both giving and taking. It’s powerful, and it just plain creeps me out.
This is probably because I’m 17 and male, and a good part of me is remarkably immature. Still, I have to commend the man for not branding it as complete beauty or damning it as a perversity as we are so keen to do. In fact, when the main character makes the decision to commit himself and his body to his girlfriend, Murakami makes sex appear like a beautiful thing, while showing how it can be used badly. Now, my literary prowess is limited due to age and laziness to read anything outside of school curriculum and fantasy, so I’m likely over glorifying the writer in this aspect. Yet, it still astounds me how much it made an impact. And for that Murakami is awesome.
This is probably not my best time to be writing anything, considering my self esteem has recently been punched in the face by exams. But, since I’ll receive my marks tomorrow which will eliminate any esteem I have left, I might as well say something about this.
The blogosphere, and much of the Northern Hemisphere in general, has been compulsively shaking in anticipation of whatever Apple was supposed to announce on January 27. I have friends who were wetting themselves as they slept because of the hype for this device regardless of whether I dipped their hands in water.
Today I went to my local DVD store/anime retailer/Pizza Place/Heaven and bought Le Chevalier D’Eon, Livre 1 and 2. A friend of mine reccomended it to me a while back, and seeing that I wasn’t broke at the time I bought it. I was apprehensive at first to even look at the title considering it was in French, which I hate. After watching it now I discovered that I really like the anime, and that I’m now broke. I only watched the first eight episodes but they left me with quite an impression.
The general story is that in 1742 D’Eon, a member of the French secret police under King Louis XV, finds that his sister had been mercilessly killed and her body had been placed in a coffin in the Seine River. He soon discovers that for some reason her body has been filled with mercury, stopping it from rotting. He then takes it upon himself to find the people responsible and kill them. Of course the plot runs a lot deeper than that. The story does delve into far-fetched as it deals with using the bible Psalms to cast magic, but at no point does it seem too unrealistic. It’s just subtle enough that it’s almost immediately acceptable (unlike some other fiction where the magic feels like a game of Civilization played on God Mode).
As it is still beginning there has been nothing in terms of insane plot twists, only constant tension and intrigue. Every episode I watched was interesting in its own merit, and certainly kept me wondering what comes next. Livre 2 also ends on a good note, leaving you with enough suspense to want more but content enough to pause until you get your hands on the next one.
While the plot is definitely a highlight of the story, the thing that I enjoyed the most was the level of detail put into its production. Historically the setting is entirely correct. I did some research myself thinking that they probably made something up put it together added some European flair and called it France and I was shocked to find that this was not the case. The buildings, names, phrases, cities etc. are all decidedly French. The characters are not entirely accurate, but this is to be expected considering it is historical fiction. For example King Louis and his wife are relatively accurate in terms of characterization and appearance; on the other hand D’Eon is not even close to his historical counterpart bearing in mind that historically D’Eon was a cross-dressing spy.
Often in the show they quote the bible, seeing as it is 18th century France, where the King only lived because God said so. I even took out my dust covered bible to see if the lines they quote are actually in the bible. Amazingly enough, I actually found them in the Psalms.
In terms of the dub quality, I liked it much more than the Japanese Version. It’s not an all-star cast but it gets the job done in a way that couldn’t be achieved in Japanese. Really, I think that it has more to do that when they do slip in French words and phrases it sounds a lot smoother (and more understandable) in English. The similarities between English and French lend a hand in creating much more fluid dialogue, though I am pretty proud of how well the Japanese managed.
One last thing that caught my eye was the DVDs themselves. There are brief historical notes for those of you who don’t know what Wikipedia is (of course I didn’t find the Historical Notes until after several hours on Wikipedia). On top of that there are commentaries from the translators, the male voice actors, and the female voice actors.
Taken with a grain of salt, this is only the first few episodes. There are still sixteen more that I haven’t seen. For all I know there could be a horrible fatal flaw that comes along in the next episode. However from what I’ve seen I can’t wait to see what comes next.