A Book A Week Challenge – Week 17

Week 17 read is my return to reading after a week off. I know I am going to fall short on my goal of reading 52 books this year, but this was a welcome break for me. At some point, even without my conscious choice, reading had become a part of me. It grew so much so to miss the absolute joy of “experiencing” beautifully constructed words or phrases or sentences or analogies and even at times the narrations.

Week 17 read for me is like meeting your much-anticipated superhero. You heard about him from people among your circles. You wanted to meet him multiple times but the time just didn’t work well. Finally, when you get to meet him, either of two things could happen.

You would be absolutely awed by his presence and drop to tears or be totally disappointed with the hype created around him- you might as well be disgusted by yourself for creating opinions without even looking closely of who you admire.

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“A Wild Sheep Chase” by Haruki Murakami is the one that falls into the first category for me. I was absolutely delighted reading this 353 pages novel – enjoyed every bit of it. I feel sorry for myself to have not picked any of his work so far.

Book #: 17

Title: A Wild Sheep Chase” by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Alfred Birnbaum

Pages: 353

This might be the most surrealistic novel written operating within the limits of a chase thriller novel. This book narrates the chase of sheep that ‘inhabit’ humans but the boundaries to discuss absolutely contrasting ideas were pushed way to its limits.  The book covers a wide range of topics: from fighting multiple relationships to a criminal anarchy to the evolution of a town to the way ranks evolve among sheep herds.

More often, the translator, mainly in written form of art, gets little due attention as he deserves. In any other art form, for instance, movie or theatre or dance, the version which you see – the face of the performance or his moves gets much more attention than the underlying narration. Of late, I had an opportunity of reading probably some of the best translations made in the modern era of writing.

Illustration of brilliance in writing translations is more pronounced in analogies than any other portion of writing.

Here is a simple example of how a phrase (‘Silence’) can be used in multiple scenarios without disturbing the beauty of the respective context:

“A Silence pregnant with the presentiment of death”

“There ensured a brief silence, a pebble sent plunging down a fathomless well. It took thirty seconds for the pebble to hit bottom”

“This was a definitive silence, one you could judge the qualities of other silences by.”

“The uncertainty of silence that followed showed I had earned myself a few points”

“A weighty silence ensued”

“It was a silence strong enough to make your ears hurt”

“Particles of silence floated about the room for the longest time”

The other interesting attribute about this particular novel – the story in its narrative form could as well be a simple one – as they say, it’s not about the baseline story, it’s about the storytelling.

For a novel that has a natural flow of narration, it takes immense strength to fill in the ideologies of lead characters. It gets tricky – as explicitly quoting the philosophical ideologies of characters -could be disruptive to the narration.

Here is another illustration of how heavy philosophies smoothly get transitioned into writing:

This is how the narration of an existential reality (the undercurrent theme of this novel) is narrated in words:

“As long as I stared at the clock, at least the world remained in motion. Not a very consequential world, but in motion nonetheless. And as long as I knew this world was still in motion, I knew I existed. Not a very consequential existence, but an existence nevertheless”

This is how the time is described:

“Time really is one big continuous cloth, no? We habitually cut out pieces of time to fit us, so we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that time is our size, but it really goes on and on”

I might continue drafting multiple examples right through the book but would strongly recommend reading this masterpiece of writing to know about (along with the story):

  1. Why ships have names but not airplanes?
  2. Is there a religious interpretation in how we react in the traffic jam?
  3. How pecking order is created among sheep?
  4. How towns evolved in the past where people ran away from home due to debts?

Overall, for me personally, “A Wild Sheep Chase” introduced me to the most celebrated writers of our time and made me experience the joy of reading. Again.

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