So there’s an interesting way in which novel gets revisited in the more recent Murakami novel: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. That book is about a man in his thirties reflecting back on his high school/early college years and trying to decide what happened that made his friends leave him. It also involves the power of shame and memory and mental health.
This novel is about a man in his thirties reflecting back on his late school and early college relationships with a few different women. He has a memory triggered by hearing “Norwegian Wood” played over an airport intercom in Germany and he panics, emotionally, thinking about his college years and the sad experiences that he had sort of closed off for the following 18 years or so. The rest of the book is his telling those stories.
This novel feels like it could really be autobiographical, or autobiographical enough – though I would say the same about the other novel. It’s an interesting story, reminiscent and sentimental, and it comes across as a very late 1980s novel too, with a heavy focus on sexual liberation as a novel concept still rather than a more generally accepted one. It looks back at the late 1960s with an appreciation for the progress that seems to have been made more widely by the 1980s. And so when I look back now, I see even more connection to the way we talk about sexual identity today. It’s not particularly cringey, although some of the sex scenes, because they are explicit come across quite starkly. But it doesn’t have that feeling of wholesale problematic that a lot of older novels and movies have.