“A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world in this side with the world on the other side.”
Linking two sides, while allowing them to keep their essence: this is the major theme of Sputnik, another beautiful book by Murakami. Out of all the books I have read from him, this is among the most philosophical, yet logical and emotional one. He writes philosophical ideas, expressed with logical eloquence, appealing to pathos.
It is a book with a straightforward beginning: expressing a triangle of unrequited love. Summer loves Miu, but she is not capable of love. On the other hand the narrator loves Summer, but she doesn’t love him back the same way. The plot is fairly simple, yet so complex in meaning. Conveying complex ideas with simple words and metaphors is definitely a writing signature of Murakami (of course, not to leave out cats, wells and music, which appear here too).
How did this triangle came to be? Coincidences. Curious encounters that bring certain people in our lives, people that may out of a sudden decide to get out of it, for one reason or another. While reading about the narrator’s reflections on these encounters during his conversations with Sumire, I could not help but be philosophic on my own, adding some of my reflections.
I think that encountering other people, is part of our self-discovery, a quest for ourselves. Self-discovery comes with a lot of alone time in a cabin in our life train. We see others just passing by, as random passengers entering our cabin and we let them enter; we let them be our companions for a couple of stops, until their stop arrives. Then, they leave the train, while we continue the journey, knowing that we will be the last one to get off the train, without knowing when that will be. This is our train, our lives. The others just pass by. How do we change during this trip? How does our metamorphosis look like? Do we remain with scars from the people we have met? Do we cherish the memories? Or do we just remain lonely? After all, loneliness means that no one remains with us until the end.
Indeed, there are some beautiful quotes in the book, that put a spotlight on the sad, yet romantically melancholic feeling of loneliness:
“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy the, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”
“Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again. No words passing between them. No promises to keep.”
“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in 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.”
Writing per se is also one of the key parts of the book. Sumire is a young aspiring writer, who loves to write, regardless of how her writing is perceived. She has an abundance of thoughts that flow to her like a river during the spring after the snow melts. Writing helps her to think. Thinking helps her in her self-discovery, thus it is highly related to her emotional state. I wonder if anyone else, is thinking: this character could be a personification of me. At least, I was thinking that while reading Sumire’s thoughts. Her thoughts are so all over the place that even her finds it hard to give them a shape. Her words are put into sentences, but to me, reading her letters, it seemed that her writing is a rough diamond, with a great promising value if polished.
In her writings, and conversations with the narrator, Sumire talks about the known and the unknown and the line between them. Is there truly a line? Not really, according to the narrator. “In the world we live in, what we know and what we don’t know are like Siamese twins, inseparable, existing in a state of confusion. Confusion. Confusion.” The way I envisioned this confusion, while reading the book, is that our complete self tries to cope with all these knowns and unknowns. Yet, it keeps being a struggle. And this is where thinking and dreaming come into place. Sumire mentions that writing helps her think, and thinking consists of what she knows, putting these ideas together. On the other hand, wishful thinking part of the conscious or the unconscious are part of dreams.
At some point in the book, this notion is reflected in a fiction element of having two selves own parallel world. Murakami often tends to include fiction, but so naturally, that it blends with reality having metaphors as common denominator. These are metaphors of experiences in our lives that change us, our essence. We rediscover ourselves, we lose parts of us during the way, we reinvent. But, we have a hard time accepting it, which is why we rarely talk about it explicitly.
We are in pursuit of these dreams, which we think they can become reality, in a parallel world. Meanwhile, we can’t stop thinking on again, limits to this pursuit. “ I can’t rid myself of my old familiar dark doubts. Aren’t I spending all my time and energy in some useless pursuit?” Hauling a bucket of water to a place that’s on the verge of flooding? Shouldn’t I give up any useless effort and just go with the flow?”
This book is truly so beautiful and poetic, that I cannot help myself but place all these quotes in this post. The ultimate themes of loneliness and self-discovery, are done justice through these poetic quotes. I have tried reading certain parts of the books twice, and each time, I relate to them differently, but with relevance to my inner me.
Do these characters manage to find themselves at the end of the book? How does Sputnik relate to them? This is up to you dear readers to find out. I hope that my fascination for this book is already reflected in this review post and that will inspire you to start reading.