Norwegian Wood: A Novel Inextricably Dark but Mysteriously Beautiful

8 Min Read

Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli

“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.”

These bitterly true lines are from a paradoxically mesmerising novel that many a critic also have mentioned as either depressingly beautiful or beautifully depressing. This novel guides the readers through some of life’s darkest and most dangerous territories with a view of death, grief, winter woods, psychic state, wisdom, warmth and many more. It might make the heart ache out of agony and eventually offer tingling sensation to our emotions. While reading the novel, it might feel like we are engaging with a sort of intoxicating music along with some rapacious aspects of human relationships.

Essentially, Norwegian Wood is a romance in which one young man falls into the dilemma of loving two women at the same time. But the novel does so many other things that it compels us to not dismiss it as a simple story about a love triangle. The abundance of suicidal precepts and disturbed sexual content or psychic recurrence might not appeal to all types of readers but this novel also manages a beautiful and tragic balance of love and grief. There is a list of complex characters and everyone of them will be found to overcome some unique personal struggle. The book is not going to serve as nostrum for those who are suffering from seasonal affective disorder or bipolar disorders, but for others, this book itself will be profuse in lifelong experiences.

It would be preposterous to skip the fact that going through the novel and the figurative speech, it will drizzle you with surreal experience. At some point, you might want to touch the characters to advise them or to solve their puzzling condition, but then you will be intrigued by the reality that these are human issues and problems that must go on. Not to mention, the relevancy of nature, with the mind and behaviour of the characters will give you bizarre but inebriating feelings. The characters are flawed, imperfect souls but can heal each other’s imperfections. The characters and their situations might seem dark and frustrating but the book is illuminating and can throw light on the spiritual sides of existence. Alongside, the smell of the meadows, the breeze, the rain, winter descriptions, the hostel life, the teenage sparks, and the nostalgic episodes can feel very real and can trance you to a different world.

Reading Norwegian wood made me realise a lot of things about love, life, sadness, melancholy, death and unheard or bitter truth. I might sound paradoxical but I extricated something after musings over the book. The realisation is that human beings themselves are bizarre, incalculable, and arbitrary, hence, Murakami presented such characters in the novel. There are times when you predict something about someone’s behaviour and it comes out true, and there are times when the prediction totally fails and the person behaves the opposite. No matter what you predict or analyse, humans will act distinctly and in defiant manners. These are all there in the characterisation and making of the novel that proves the incongruity of life to make it mysteriously beautiful.

I am writing this discussion by referring to the translated version of the original book by Jay Rubin (2000) who has successfully done justice to Murakami’s creation. The original Japanese title of the book is Noruwei no Mori that was published in Japan in the year 1987,  and the set up or background of the novel was of the late 1960s Japan. The story is told from the first person perspective and that too by one of the lead characters in the novel. The title Norwegian Wood is derived from a famous 1965 song by the Beatles and the music is seen to be played inside the novel. This music triggered the protagonist in the novel about the memory of his loved ones and the persons whom he lost forever. He recalls, “All I had lost in the course of my life: times (are) gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again”.

The book prospects on the fact that it is hard to write or talk about one’s most intense memories, or to recollect the passions, actions of the teen times that were left behind decades ago. There are also evocative and circumstantial description of love, sex, attachment in many ways and layers, be they innocent love making, play dating with many without purposes, or being with someone to be jolly and tension free. Some call it an analytical novel while denoting the instances on love making, passing time with the close person, or escaping from the stumbling blocks of life by exploring sex. There are deep illustrations of various psychological states that can define people’s lives and control the incidents or happenings. The only things that seemed bizarre and contemptible are some of the repetitive and irrelevant indulgences with meaningless sex. In closing, I would recommend reading the piece to get a fine literary sense, and hence, delve into profound and intense narration of life events. The consummation of my writing can be made by referring to the lines from the novel that talks about distinct way of feeling love-

“I was hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it — to be fed so much love I could not take it anymore. Just once.”


Tuli likes to have small talks with people of various cultures, religions, and races. She can’t sit at home and would prefer living out of a suitcase at any time.

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