A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum
Having had early access (not to brag, really!), I’ve been feeling SOOO nostalgic for more of Murakami that I started going back to his earlier titles … and landed back with his first major hit in English translation, the book that started it all. I can’t believe more than two decades have passed since I read this wild, Wild uniquely fantastical odyssey … and, not surprisingly, all those years makes for a very different reading indeed.
Bottom line: yes, it passes the test of time with great ease … sigh of relief and a yippee indeed.
A not-too-dedicated PR/advertising company co-owner has recently lost his wife to his best friend. He’s bored with his career, is a bit of a slacker, finds himself a new girlfriend who’s “nothing special” except when she bares her extraordinary ears. Said slacker gets embroiled in a mysterious hunt for an errant sheep somewhere far away and is given a month to hunt it down. His only clue is a certain photograph sent by a friend-in-hiding named ‘The Rat,’ who disappeared a few years ago although he sends strange missives with impossible-to-read postmarks. In the picture: mountains, 33 sheep, including one with a certain star … thus the chase begins …
Here’s something I didn’t know 20+ years ago … something I learned from Murakami’s running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: Wild is his third novel, and the last in a trio commonly referred to as “Trilogy of the Rat.” The previous two novels, Hear the Wind Sing (1979) and Pinball, 1973 (1980), were translated into English by the same Alfred Birnbaum here, but the translations had rather limited distribution from the Japanese publishing giant Kodansha (unlike Wild which had a major U.S. publisher). Having never read the prequels, I finally ordered both today from a used bookseller.
The “trilogy,” however, is a bit of a misnomer, as Murakami returns to familiar sheep territory in Dance Dance Dance which I also read so many years ago … but intend to re-read, newly re-addicted as I’ve become! So definitely stay tuned for more, more, more.
Published: 1989 (United States)