The idea that each person experiences life in his or her own way is a common and seemingly banal one. And yet, like so many great writers, Murakami has a way of painting anew what may seem a withered concept

It is no secret that Haruki Murakami is a masterful storyteller. With novels like the Wind-Up Bird and Hard Boiled Wonderland, he was able to pull us into surrealistic abstract worlds of talking cats, jazz bars and even paintings. He has an uncanny and enchanting way of unravelling abstract ideas like the past and the present, death and existential crisis’s, through the medium of fiction. His surrealistic, infinitely imaginative style and engrossing storytelling can be clearly seen in novels like “Kafka on the Shore” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”.

”Our lives really do seem strange and mysterious when you look back on them. Filled with unbelievably
bizarre coincidences and unpredictable, zigzagging developments. While they are unfolding, it’s hard to see anything weird about them, no matter how closely you pay attention to your surroundings. In the midst of the everyday, these things may strike you as simply ordinary things, a matter of course. They might not be logical, but time has to pass before you can see if something is logical.”
– Killing Commendatore

Reading Murakami is never a straight-forward process and as a fan, I roll in glee at the opportunity of getting enmeshed in his web. However, since his books, at the core level, are mostly about human frailties and the attempts to comprehend them, they leave me in a fertile place where the guiding light reveals as much as it hides. And these open ends make for a fascinating tête-à-tête with self.

Murakami gives us several beautiful sensory details–the tear dampened pillow, the warm hand, the cawing crow, the spinning Earth–only to produce those final two sentences in a sort of chilling, “what is reality?” moment.

The idea that each person experiences life in his or her own way is a common and seemingly banal one. And yet, like so many great writers, Murakami has a way of painting anew what may seem a withered concept:

“She leaves behind a damp pillow, wet with her tears. You touch the warmth with your hand and watch
the sky outside gradually lighten. Far away a crow caws. The Earth slowly keeps on turning. But beyond any of those details of the real, there are dreams. And everyone’s living in them.”
– Kafka on the Shore

Perhaps it’s the implicit paradox (we inhabit a “real” world and “dream” world) in these sentences that jolts me into a more poignant awareness of the curious nature of my existence. Murakami gives us several beautiful sensory details–the tear dampened pillow, the warm hand, the cawing crow, the spinning Earth–only to produce those final two sentences in a sort of chilling, “what is reality?” moment. The juxtaposition incites a simultaneous awareness of the “real”, shared world and also the inner world–the world of our secrets, our fears, our imaginations, and our sense of identity, duty, morality, and
worth. Each of us seamlessly inhabits both of these realms all the time, with the two of them interacting in a sort of dynamic interplay.

Our experience of the external world is forever colored by our ideas about what everything (society, work, relationships, and success) is, who we are, and how we should act within it. We tend to think of dreams as something imagined and thus “unreal”, yet in a sense we are constantly “dreaming” our own experience, seeing what we believe the world to be, rather than what it is.

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and  plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
– Kafka on the Shore

I have met storms within myself. Enough time passes and suddenly things are transitioning, people are changing, and you’re trying to understand your role in the great mosaic of life. This, you find out, is difficult. And you run into all kinds of swamps and snags and sinkholes, some external yet many internal, with which you must grapple.

And it can all be painful and overwhelming. And then it can happen again and again, periodically. These difficulties may never stop. Maybe Rilke was right when he wrote, “The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.”

But with each defeat, or each storm traversed (pick your metaphor), you do grow stronger and you do change. And it isn’t just you. It’s everyone –7 billion of us experiencing our own burdens and bruises and metamorphoses in this impossible world.

And that’s where I find a warming comfort in Murakami’s words. It is with his cold honesty that I can sincerely empathize and know that even in the grimmest hour, I am not alone. His characters may inhibit a strange surrealist world but they are human grappling with questions of identity and loss and this is the heart of the story.

But with each defeat, or each storm traversed (pick your metaphor), you do grow stronger and you do change. And it isn’t just you. It’s everyone –7 billion of us experiencing our own burdens and bruises and metamorphoses in this impossible world.

In his signature style, Murakami’s flight from the real to the surreal and back, and forth, and back always leaves me enthralled. From a bell whose eerie jingling punctured the night stillness for exactly 45 minutes to the crystallization of an idea into a walking-talking person, from the disappearance of things from the real world to their timely apparitions in the surreal world, to a metaphorical sandstorm his stories always turn into an exhilarating ride where beliefs are as quickly suspended as their twins are embraced. But even as he held me captive in this roller coaster wheel of happenstances, he consciously waved cards on family, friendship, art, success, loneliness, values and life, begging me to pay attention to their subtle but all- encompassing impact.

His novels are a sheer feast of language, distinctive even in translation with a riveting narrative style.

Because every creation is a repayment to the loan of time and when made the right way, strengthens our worthiness in the world we live in and shall eventually leave behind.

Because every creation is a repayment to the loan of time and when made the right way, strengthens our worthiness in the world we live in and shall eventually leave behind.