One From the Archive: ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ by Haruki Murakami ****

I have wanted to read this novel for about five years, ever since one of the rather beautiful quotes from it was acted out as an audition piece on drama school-based ‘Nearly Famous’, one of my favourite television programmes.  Sputnik Sweetheart follows three characters: aspiring novelist Sumire, Miu – the woman whom Sumire surprises herself by falling in love with – and K, our male narrator.  A love triangle of sorts soon ensues; K is in love with Sumire, two years his junior, and Sumire treats him more like a friend and almost prophetic teacher than as someone whom she is interested in. 

The one problem which I tend to have with translated Japanese fiction is that the conversations can sometimes feel a little lacklustre and void of emotion.  I’m not really sure why this tends to happen (can anyone enlighten me?), but the problem is sadly present in Sputnik Sweetheart In the grand scheme of things however, the prose was often so lovely that the conversational patterns were somewhat outweighed.  Sputnik Sweetheart was not at all as I had expected it to be, but it was both engaging and compelling, and twists and turns were taken which made it an intriguing work of mystery.  The three protagonists were all well developed and believably constructed, and I now want to read more of Murakami’s work.  I shall leave you with this beautiful quote, which I hope will encourage everyone who has not done so already to pick up this peculiar but memorable novel:

“And it came to me then.  That we were wonderful travelling companions, but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal on their own separate orbits.  From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere.  When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together.  Maybe even open our hearts to each other.  But that was only for the briefest moment.  In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude.  Until we burned up and became nothing.”

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6 thoughts on “One From the Archive: ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ by Haruki Murakami ****

  1. I’ve also noticed what you said about translated-Japanese conversations. Do you think something is lost in translation, or do you think it is just a cultural difference in writing styles? I really loved Sputnik Sweetheart – I thought it was so lyrical and quietly magical. Have you read other things by Murakami? I am excited to hear (read?) more of your thoughts on him!

    • I think it has elements of both, to be honest! The conversations seems quite spare to me; perhaps it’s partially because I’m more used to poetic-sounding conversations in original English-language novels too? I’ve not read that much Murakami, if I’m honest, but I did get to ‘The Strange Library’ last week. 🙂

  2. Another one to add to the list! I think that spare kind of writing you describe must be a cultural thing because I find it too. I almost find the relationships all the more intense for that stilted….blank kind of feeling….I suppose perhaps it just gives me the opportunity to fill in the gaps.

  3. Pingback: Reading the World: Asia (Part One) | theliterarysisters

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