“Hear the Wind Sing”

Hear the Wind

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Haruki Murakami’s 1979 debut. I read a 2015 edition, translated by Ted Goossen which combines Wind with Pinball, 1973 (thank you, wonderful library).

Buy the Book.

4 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 2

The Plot:

A young man drinks with his friend the Rat and meets a nine-fingered woman while on college break in August 1970.

Hear the Wind Sing is more novella than novel, more stream-of-consciousness than narrative. There’s no real conflict but instead the kind of Deep Thoughts one has in their early twenties. There’s the tragic, mysterious girl who cries on our narrator’s shoulder, there’s the rich best friend who drinks too much. There’s our narrator, who is told by the friendly neighborhood bartender, “You’re a sweet kid, but part of you seems – how should I put this? – above it all, like a Zen monk or something…” (p.71).

Hear the Wind Sing is a lackadaisical beatnik Kerouacian On the Road-type piece of work, but I like it a lot. I read it for the first time in my early twenties, and that’s the best time to put it in someone’s hands. The prose is simple and non-showy, which I appreciate; the story is pleasant and the narrator more likeable than anyone I ever found in Kerouac.

Murakami also has a more humorous approach than the usual self-important beatnik author and there’s an element of Vonnegut in his shifts from topic to topic and short chapter structure. There’s even an invented pulp-novelist in the style of Kilgore Trout (see note [27]). And, like Yoko Ogawa (see intro notes for Revenge), Murakami avoids assigning full names to his characters: we get “I,” “the girl with nine fingers,” “the Rat,” “J,” etc.


[1]

Now I think it’s time to tell my story.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that I have resolved even one of my problems, or that I will be somehow different when I finish.

(p.4)

[2]

My late grandmother used to say, “People with dark hearts have dark dreams. Those whose hearts are even darker can’t dream at all.”

(p.6)

[3] Reference:

I started thinking about a Richard Burton war movie, that one where he plays a tank commander.

(p.12)

 

The Desert Rats is a 1953 American film directed by Robert Wise, that stars Richard Burton, James Mason, and Robert Newton. The film concerns the Siege of Tobruck in North Africa during World War II. Mason plays Rommel and Burton plays British Captain “Tammy” MacRoberts (who I think (?) is a tank commander in the film).

[4] Reference:

I picked up my copy of A Sentimental Education.

(p.13)

 

Sentimental Education (1869) is a novel by Gustave Flaubert. It is considered one of the most influential novels of the 19th century. The story focuses on the romantic life of a young man at the time of the French Revolution of 1848.

[5] Entirety of Chapter 6 (and extremely Vonnegut-like):

The Rat’s novel had two good things about it. First, there were no sex scenes; second, no one died. Guys don’t need any encouragement – left to themselves, they still die and sleep with girls. That’s just the way it is.

(p.16)

[6]

“Civilization is communication,” the doctor said. “That which is not expressed doesn’t exist.”

(p.19)

[7]

Whenever I wake up in someone else’s home, I feel like I’m stuck in another body inhabited by someone else’s spirit.

(p.20)

[8]

“Looking at the ocean makes me miss people, and hanging out with people makes me miss the ocean. It’s weird.”

(p.22)

[9] Reference:

The stale aroma of cigarettes, whiskey, French fries, unwashed armpits, and bad plumbing all neatly layered like a Baumkuchen.

(p.29)

 

Baumkuchen (German for “tree cake”) is a German variety of spit cake. It is a traditional pastry of many European countries throughout, and also a popular snack and dessert in Japan.

[10] Reference:

She scanned the room just as I had done and ordered a gimlet.

(p.29)

 

The gimlet is a cocktail typically made of 2 part gin, 1 part lime juice, and soda.

[11] References:

“What French singers do people like here?”

Adamo.”

“He’s Belgian.”

“Okay, then Michel Polnareff.”

Merde,” he swore.

(p.31)

 

Salvatore Adamo (b.1943) is a musician and singer known for his romantic ballads. Adamo was born in Italy but grew up from a very early age in Belgium. He mainly performs in French but has also sung in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Turkish. He is currently the best selling Belgian musician of all time.

Michel Polnareff (b.1944) is a French singer-songwriter who was popular in France from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s.

[12] Reference:

Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

(p.34)

 

Brook Benton (1931-1988) was an American singer and songwriter popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He made a comeback in 1970 with the ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

[13] Reference:

The Miles Davis album that has “A Girl in Calico.”

(p.41)

 

A Gal in Calico” is a song by American composer Arthur Schwartz introduce in the 1946 film The Time, the Place and the Girl.

Miles Davis covered the song in 1955 and it appears on many compilations and collections. I’m not sure what original album it appeared on.

[14] Reference:

The new Harpers Bizarre album.

(p.41)

 

Harpers Bizarre was an American sunshine pop band of the 1960s, best known for their Broadway/sunshine pop sound and their remake of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”

[15] Reference:

“ ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is its ability to function while holding two opposite ideas at the same time.’?”

Who said that?”

“I forget.”

(p.42)

According to wikiquote:

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up”, Esquire Magazine (February 1936).

[16] Reference:

We made love on the Sunday edition of the Asahi newspaper.

(p.47)

 

The Asahi Shimbun (literally Morning Sun Newspaper) is one of the five national newspapers in Japan. One of Japan’s oldest and largest national daily newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun began publication in Osaka on January 25, 1879.

[17] Reference:

A hippie chick I bumped into in the Shinjuku subway station.

(p.47)

 

Shinjuku is a special ward in Tokyo, Japan. It is a major commercial and administrative center, housing the northern half of the busiest railway station in the world.

[18] Reference:

We walked down the deserted streets all the way to Mejiro.

(p.48)

 

Mejiro (“White Eyes”) is a residential district of Toshima, Tokyo. It is home to the prestigious Gakushuin University.

[19] References:

“There was a famous leopard in Bhagalpur that killed and ate three hundred and fifty Indians in just three years.”

“Really?”

“An Englishman, Colonel Jim Corbett, who was known as the leopard exterminator, shot one hundred and twenty-five tiger and leopards, including that one, in eight years.”

(p.52-53)

 

Bhagalpur is a city of historical importance on the southern banks of the river Ganges in the Indian state of Bihar. It is known as Silk City.

Three hundred and fifty human deaths from leopard are reported in the Bhagalpur district, Bihar, between the years of 1959-62. (I don’t see that it was believed to be a single tiger.)

Jim Corbett (1875-1955) was a British hunter, tracker and conservationist, author and naturalist, who hunted a large number of man-eating tigers and leopards in India. Corbett held the rank of colonel in the British Indian Army. He killed at least two man-eating leopards. The first was the Panar Leopard in 1910, which allegedly killed 400 people. The second was the man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag in 1926, said to be responsible for more than 126 deaths.

[20] References:

I was reading Jules Michelet’s La Sorciere.

(p.53)

 

Jules Michelet (1798-1874) was a French historian. He was the first historian to use and define the word Renaissance, as a period in Europe’s cultural history. Satanism and Witchcraft (originally La Sorciere) is a book by Michelet on the history of witchcraft that was published originally in French in 1862.

[21] Reference:

[We] listened to the MJQ on her record player.

(p.58)

 

The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was a jazz combo established in 1952.

[22] Reference:

[The garage] was big enough to accommodate a Piper Club.

(p.67)

 

The Piper J-3 Club is an American light aircraft that was build between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. It was produced in large numbers during World War II as the L-4 Grasshopper.

[23]

There was a time when everyone wanted to be cool.

Toward the end of high school, I decided to express only half of what I was really feeling. I can’t recall the initial reason, but for the next several years this was how I behaved. At which point, I discovered that I had turned into a person incapable of expressing more than half of what he felt.

(p.71-72)

[24] Reference:

“I went to Nara a few years ago with a girl.”

(p.75)

 

Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan.

[25] Reference:

Mantovani’s versions of Italian folk songs.

(p.76)

 

Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980) was an Anglo-Italian conductor, composer and light orchestra-styled entertaining.

[26]

“There are no truly strong people. Only people who pretend to be strong.”

“Can I ask one question?”

I nodded.

“In all honesty, do you believe what you just said?”

“Sure I do.”

The Rat studied his glass for a minute.

“Do me a favor and tell me you’re lying,” he said, in all seriousness.

(p.77)

[27] Compare this to Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout:

Derek Hartfield was a prolific writer (…) In his semi-autobiographical One and a Half Times Around the Rainbow (1937) – one of his more serious efforts (in that it featured no aliens or monsters) – Hartfield seems to have little in mind beyond jokes, sarcasm, paradox, and vitriol.

(p.79)

[28] Reference:

Romain Rolland’s Jean-Christophe. It’s all written there.

(p.78)

 

Romain Rolland (1866-1944) was a French dramatist, novelist, essayist, art historian and mystic who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915. Rolland’s most famous novel is the 10-volume novel sequence Jean-Christophe (1904-1912). The central character, Jean-Christophe Krafft, is a German musician of Belgian extraction, a composer of genius whose life is depicted from cradle to grave.

[29] Reference:

She was wearing a pink Lacoste polo shirt.

(p.83)

 

Lacoste is a French clothing company, founded in 1933 by tennis player Rene Lacoste and Andre Gillier.

[30]

We lie through our teeth, then swallow our tongues.

(p.84)

[31]

“I’m scared,” she said.

“Of what?”

“Of everything. Aren’t you?”

(p.91)

[32]

All things pass. None of us can manage to hold on to anything.

In that way, we live our lives.

(p.97)

[33] Reference:

[We] feed popcorn to the pigeons in Hibiya Park.

(p.98)

 

Hibiya Park is a park in Chiyoda City, Tokyo. It covers an area of 40 acres.

[34] References:

Of the films not by Peckinpah, I like Ashes and Diamonds, while she likes Mother Joan of the Angels, both Polish films.

(p.98)

 

Ashes and Diamonds is a 1958 Polish film directed by Andrzej Wajda, based on the 1948 novel by Polish writer Jerzy Andrzejewski. It is a love story that takes place as the German occupation ends in Poland.

Mother Joan of the Angels is a 1961 drama film on demonic possession, directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, based on a novella of the same title by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz.


Hear the Wind Sing is recommended for people who liked Catcher in the Rye when they were sixteen, On the Road when they were nineteen and Kurt Vonnegut in their twenties. (It’s a good book to give as a gift for that type of reader, too.) Though Murakami is a big name in literature now, I’m guessing Wind is still a bit of an obscurity. It’s also incredibly unlike his later work (which I’ve never been able to get into), so if you’ve tried him before and been turned off, you might feel different about this one.

Next week, continuing the tale of the Rat with Murakami’s next work, Pinball, 1973.

 

 

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