After reading Kafka on the Shore, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and finally Norwegian Wood, I was craving for another surrealistic and suicidal fix. The daily routines and the normality of everything around me were maddening.
I rushed to the nearest bookstore, salivating and breathing heavily, as if a whore in heat ready to pounce on any pulsating phallic object that would cross her way.
“Haruki Murakami!”, the sales lady realized that I wasn’t greeting her in an ancient oriental language and soon understood that it was the name of the one and only Japanese genius writer. She said that his books can be found in the Western wing of the bookstore.
Few seconds later I was standing in front of the shelf where Murakami’s books are located. I grabbed the first Murakami book nearest to me. I went back to the cashier carrying the book, still salivating and sweating; with bloodshot eyes and my hands were trembling.
When I was about to hand out the cash to pay for the book, the lady looked at me sternly.
”, she said. me.
“What?”, I was puzzled.
”, she repeated
in a robotic manner, void of any feelings. I couldn’t figure out if she was a
menacing character or if she’s an ominous being. me.
For a moment I was paralyzed, undecided whether to follow her or not.
“Sir you must follow me. You are in desperate need of help.”
“You have Murakami Syndrome. Come with me and you’ll understand everything.”
She grabbed my right arm, and briskly ushered me towards the eastern wing of the bookstore. It occurred to me in that very moment that it was a huge bookstore, almost like a shopping mall. I looked around at the east wing and noticed the strange stairs. I couldn’t comprehend much how the structure was made or was it even possible. There are only three stairs, each one leading to a storey. There were people scattered around the area- some reading on the staircases, some chatting in the hall, others coming up and down the stairs. But they seemed to be a blur. It was hard to see their faces. Their eyes. You can’t get into them. They were soul-less.
“Where are we going?”, I asked.
“To the Room. It’s a special clinic. You will meet Mr. Cato Manfredi.”
We walked towards a door in a hidden corner of the bookstore. When she opened it, there was a spiral staircase which leads down to, perhaps, the basement. We went down the stairs and it was very dark. I couldn’t see a thing. The confident steps of the lady in front of me suggest that she often goes down this staircase. She had no need of any torch to light her way.
The thick darkness was oppressive, almost claustrophobic, as if it was going to swallow me whole.
When I felt that we reached the bottom of the stairs, I still couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see the lady.
I heard the clicking of an opening door and there was a light emanating from an opening in front of me. And there was the silhouette of the lady.
“We’re here. This is The Room”. She announced in her usually monotonous way.
I slowly walked towards the blinding light. When I was certain that I was inside The Room, I tried to open my eyes and as soon as they got used to the brightness of the light I saw a man dressed sharply in a black suit. He had deep set of dark eyes, thick brows, delicate lips, and hair like that of an anchorman of a late night news.
“Hi, I’m Cato Manfredi. Please have a sit.”, He gestured me to sit on the red velvet couch in the middle of the room. He sat on a wooden chair opposite the couch while the lady just stood on one corner of the room.
The Roome was ridiculously pristine. The walls, ceiling and the floor was coloured in white and it was brightly lit. It was really perfect and blissful. It was so ridiculous.
“Do you know why you’re here?”, asked Cato.
“They said that this is a special clinic. I’m not really sick.”, I said. I suddenly thought that the first thing insane people usually do is self-denial- deny the existence of their mental illness. Am I really normal?
“You’ve been reading Haruki Murakami’s books right?”, asked Cato.
“No, I’ve been cleaning my arse with them.”
“And apparently you’re a Jessica Zafra minion.”
“I believe Zafra could’ve given you a better answer. And yes, I’m a Zafra minion.”
He paused for a while, studying me. I felt uneasy and vulnerable, as if were naked.
“It is not good for people to be enraptured by the twisted fantasies of this writer. Not in times like these. Our Agency’s goal is to talk some senses to dreamers and drifters like you. All this literary rubbish won’t do you any good.”
“I beg to differ Mr. Big Shot of an asshole. But this man, his books and literature are things that make us different from animals. They make us better human beings.”
“Nothing’s real but God. Nothing’s worth our time but our jobs and building a family, building our communities. In the end my boy, it all boils down to the practical things. We need to have a life. I mean, look at you. You’re nearing your thirties and you still haven0t got a girlfriend or a real job. I know books and literature are fun and fabulous, but that’s all, and they’re not enough to build our society.
People must reproduce offspring, produce goods, consume goods and build a community. Just look out there- there’s the whole world and its tangible reality. What’s so beautiful about Norwegain Wood? It’s about crazy girls, suicidal people, casual and frustrating sex experiences, raging hormones, and ever increasing numbers of pointless questions about life and love.”
I couldn’t believe what he said. “You will never understand the beauty of this book if you have accepted reality and succumb to its lifeless routines and its machinery of causes and effects and soul-less logic.
You will never be able to appreciate its beauty encapsulated in each word, incubated in each page. Don’t you remember what it was like back then when you were young? The world was so big and monstrous; it fascinates and scares you shitless at the same time. Love and sex were easily differentiated with words and thoughts but quite confusing when they are revealed in flesh and blood.
Don’t you remember the awkward and excruciating moments of youthful stirrings?
Do you remember when music and song writers were the truth-sayers of the time who sang about the dreams and freedom of youth?
And above all, have you ever been in love, a love so beautiful that it overwhelms you? Do you remember being enraptured not only by the beauty but also by the soul of a certain person that when he was gone, his absence rips you apart? It took your life away. Your were breathing but your just an empty organic vessel, void of love and life. And then you contemplate death, not as an escape, but a portal to a different existence, a different reality.”
Cato Manfredi clicked his tongue and shook his head, to show his utter disbelief. He wanted to make me feel stupid.
“If what you’re saying is true, if what you said about literature making humans better, then why are you where you are now?”
Then the bitter grasp of reality came; the cold bite of adulthood. Life is what happens to you when you get older. I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t answer back. And it was one of my greatest fears- that life would not turn out like in literature.
They say when you know the truth, it will set you free. I know the truth and have seen it. Why am I being detained here?
The lady came to me and handed me a small plastic pouch containing some pills.
“These will help you cope up with reality and save you from this madness. It’s time to grow up and be part of this world.”, Cato Manfredi said, announcing that the session was over, and that the sentence was already handed down.
He stood up from his chair and shook my hand and bid me farewell.
“Have a nice day and I hope not to see you again here.”
The lady lead me to a wall. It opened apart. When I stepped out I found myself standing outside the bookstore.
I looked around me. “So this is real.”
I dropped the bag of pills. My eyes gazed once more in the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets of
. I still longed
for the sublime world of Haruki Murakami. Florence
I went back to existence and dived into chaos in search of Death, to ask her to take me to a different trip away from here.
Another book review on "Norwegian Wood"