Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森 Noruwei no Mori?) is a 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.[1] The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality.[2] It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo.[3] Through Watanabe’s reminiscences we see him develop relationships with two very different women — the beautiful yet emotionally troubled Naoko, and the outgoing, lively Midori.[4]

The novel is set in Tokyo during the late 1960s, at a time when Japanese students, like those of many other nations, were protesting against the established order.[5] While it serves as the backdrop against which the events of the novel unfold, Murakami (through the eyes of Watanabe and Midori) portrays the student movement as largely weak-willed and hypocritical.

Murakami adapted the first section of the novel from an earlier short story, “Firefly”. The story was subsequently included in the collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.[6]

Norwegian Wood was hugely popular with Japanese youth and made Murakami something of a superstar in his native country (apparently much to his dismay at the time).[7][8]

A film adaptation of the same name was released in 2010, directed by Tran Anh Hung.

Title

The original Japanese title, Noruwei no Mori, is the standard Japanese translation of the title of The Beatles song “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)“, written by John Lennon[9] The song is often mentioned in the novel, and is the favorite song of the character Naoko. Mori in the Japanese title translates into English as wood in the sense of “forest“, not the material “wood“, even though the song lyrics clearly refer to the latter. Forest settings and imagery are significant in the novel.

 

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