A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Reading Murakami has become a great way to get my mind out of the daily grind and into a quasi fantasy but realistic world. I’m planning to read all of his books at some point, and I’ve decided to start from the beginning. There are earlier works, but A Wild Sheep Chase is the oldest that I could find. Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 apparently aren’t even in English yet. Going into this, I expected A Wild Sheep Chase to be similar to Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the Shore. I ended up not liking it as much – mostly due to its less interesting characters and somewhat straightforward plot. There were magical ears and a man in a sheep costume, but by Murakami standards, this book was tame.

1) “‘Say there’s an hourglass: the sand’s about to run out. Someone like you can always be counted on to turn the thing over.'” – the girlfriend

I’m not sure what this says about the person. I know I do it.

2) “Now there are two types of eleven-in-the-mornings for a small scale company like ours. That is, either absolutely busy or absolutely unbusy.”

Where’s my absolutely unbusy eleven-in-the-mornings? Although the guilt and unease from doing nothing might be worse.

3) “‘To hold down advertising is to have nearly the entire publishing and broadcasting industries under your thumb. There’s not a branch of publishing or broadcasting that doesn’t depend in some way on advertising. It’d be like an aquarium without water. Why, ninety-five percent of the information that reaches you has already been preselected and paid for.'” – the partner

True thirty years ago. Still true now. Even social media, arguably the most direct medium of information dissemination, lives and dies by advertising.

4) “‘Time is really one big continuous cloth, no? We habitually cut out pieces of time to fit us, so we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that time is our size, but it really goes on and on.'” – the Rat

The thing that we have the least control over.

5) “‘Now people can generally be classified into two groups: the mediocre realists and the mediocre dreamers.'” – the black suited secretary

If everyone were mediocre, does the concept of mediocrity exist?

6) “If a group of aliens were to stop me and ask, ‘Say, bud, how many miles an hour does the earth spin at the equator?’ I’d be in a fix. Hell, I don’t even know why Wednesday follows Tuesday. I’d be an intergalactic joke.”

I thought about this and got stuck. I really should know at least how to calculate this, if not the actual number.

7) “Still, writing the history of one town obviously imposed the necessity of bringing it up to a ‘today.’ And even if such a today soon ceases to be today, no one can deny that it is in fact a today. For if a today ceased to be today, history could not exist as history.”

I’m as confused as I was when I first learned about recursion.

8) “‘Ididn’twanttogoofftowar. Anywaythat’swhyI’masheep. Asheepwhostayswherehebelongsuphere.'” – the Sheep Man

Every Murakami book I’ve read talks about war in a negative way. How much of the modern Japan ethos stems from WWII?

9) “Like my ex-wife had said, ultimately every last cell of you is lost. Lost even to yourself. I pressed the palm of my hand against my cheek. The face my hand felt in the dark wasn’t my own, I didn’t think. It was the face of another that had taken the shape of my face.” 

A reminder that a part of you dies every second, millisecond,…

10) “‘But real weakness is as rare as real strength. You don’t know the weakness that is ceaselessly dragging you under into darkness. You don’t know that such a thing actually exists in the world.'” – the Rat


All in all, I thought this book had a few too many deus ex machina (having some is okay if they are exciting). But as always with Murakami, it ends well. To me, unlike the other Murakami books I’ve read, this one has a central question – what does the sheep symbolize? Weakness? Meekness? Conformity? The danger of pan Asianism? Or something that we endlessly search for and never find?

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