1 journaler for this copy...
Sputnik Sweetheart finds Haruki Murakami in his minimalist mode. Shorter than the sweeping Wind-up Bird Chronicle, less playfully bizarre than A Wild Sheep Chase, the author's seventh novel distills his signature themes into a powerful story about the loneliness of the human condition. "There was nothing solid we could depend on," the reader is told. "We were nearly boundless zeros, just pitiful little beings swept from one kind of oblivion to another."
The narrator is a teacher whose only close friend is Sumire, an aspiring young novelist with chronic writer's block. Sumire is suddenly smitten with a sophisticated businesswoman and accompanies her love object to Europe where, on a tiny Greek island, she disappears "like smoke." The schoolteacher hastens to the island in search of his friend. And there he discovers two documents on her computer, one of which reveals a chilling secret about Sumire's lover.
Sputnik Sweetheart is a melancholy love story, and its deceptively simple prose is saturated with sadness. Characters struggle to connect with one another but never quite succeed. Like the satellite of the title they are essentially alone. And by toning down the pyrotechnics of his earlier work, Murakami has created a world that is simultaneously mundane and disturbing--where doppelgängers and vanishing cats produce a pervasive atmosphere of alienation, and identity itself seems like a terribly fragile thing. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is book no. 78 on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list.
Thoughts to come.
It's funny, it's only been a few years since I last listened to this book, but I barely remember it.
Sputnik Sweetheart contains a lot of the ideas and tropes that appear again and again in Murakami's novels. Since this is an older book, I don't know if they started here or if this was just one of many times that he explored ideas of parallel worlds and doubles/doppelgangers. It's certainly not his first awkward, detached male narrator either. But because many of these elements are repeated in other books, and in other stories handled a bit better, it made Sputnik feel like a lesser work.
I don't mean to imply it's a bad novel. Far from it. A lesser Murakami is still an enjoyable read, with better writing than many of the books I read. The themes of loneliness and the way the three main characters orbit each others' lives without growing close enough for true intimacy is quite tragic, but also very realistic.
There are some very uncomfortable scenes, usually revolving around sex. The male narrator describes the sexual acts he'd like to perform on Sumire, and I know it's just his fantasy but it still feels gross because she's not interested in him in that way. He's the stereotype creepy guy friend in love with a female friend, just hanging around and waiting for her to settle for him. Later there's a scene where Sumire forces herself on Miu. I've not seen anyone else call it rape in reviews, but if it was a man acting that way to a woman isn't that what we'd call it? It was deeply unsettling to me.
I liked the ambiguous ending. Is the narrator really speaking to Sumire in that final chapter, or is it the dream of a lonely man missing his closest friend?