It took me an entire year to read, but as I flipped the last page of ‘Norwegian Wood’, the overwhelming feeling wasn’t one of achievement but strangely one of loss – I wouldn’t get to be a discreet observer of Watanabe’s world anymore. A feeling of responsibility came over me– to somehow walk over to that phone booth and tell him it was all going to be ok; the way he did for Naoko, for Midori’s father, for Hatsumi; to relieve him atleast a little bit of all that burden he had been carrying at 20 years of age, without completely falling apart. But I was just as disoriented as he was, when Midori asked him in the end, “Where are you now?”. Afterall, I wasn’t sure either. I had carried him to many a place this past year, as I lurked in his world – from the mundane kindle versions in coffee shops to the brown paperback version under a street lamp. I was never tired though, only anxious that I do justice to each word, take it in, for its meaning and its might; for the metaphor and magic of what is in theory, just a love story, but in spirit a whole different world that I was lucky to be let into. Thank you, #Murakami even though you made Watanabe the gatekeeper for many a life that stood knocking on the doors of death that each time someone quietly went in, without a fuss, I too walked alongside.
This little goodbye note however, is for you – Toru Watanabe, so you know I was there all along; watched over you as a customer in the record shop you worked at, as the telephone operator who eavesdropped on your call with Midori that fateful morning, as a bird perched on the hospital window when you made cucumber rolls for her father, as a fellow passenger on the first morning train after your night-outs with Nagasawa, the silent swaying tree along the promenade as you walked with Naoko, the dust on the balcony that you and Midori sat at while watching the fire, a friend of Seagull who was hoping to share Reiko’s sukiyaki, and a fellow being at the sanatorium where you, Naoko and Reiko lived peacefully even if only for a few days. I am all those people who were just the spaces between the words in the book, but playing small parts in your far-from-perfect world.
As I close this book with a heavy heart, I know that there would likely be many well-written reviews out there, that the world doesn’t need another one. But I will say that a review that does this book justice would be like a fine poem without words, a moving melody without lyrics, a great art piece on untouched canvas – unbelievably pure and simple and yet such a masterpiece, just like the book.