Norwegian Wood is written by Haruki Murakami. And I read the version translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin.
The story is filled with an atmosphere of sorrow and ache. It is mainly a story among our protagonist Watanabe and his four female friends, including two lovers. All of those four women in this novel have a tragic life. They have been treated unfairly and lived in unease, which made me give a deeply sympathy. What paves the way to this depressive feeling tone is an illness - depression. Two of the women who were named Naoko and Reiko suffered this disease. Even the buddy of Watanabe, Kizuki committed suicide because of depression when he was 17 years old. And since then, life developed in constant pain.
The background of the novel is “the year that rocked the world” between 1968 and 1970. The students campaign and political revolution “Zenkyoto” happened in Japanese, which brought a big impact on the thoughts and life of Japanese, especially those youths. As experiencing a lot of things, Watanabe becames confused about the crazy, chaotic, unfair world and society, just like walking in a deep, never-ending swamp.
But it is also a story about rescue. The understanding of death and life, the growth helps Watanabe shoulder the pain and helps those people who still alive to go out of the shadows.
The first impression when I read this book is the beautiful and familiar words expression, especially those description of natural scenes. At that time I thought maybe Chinese and Japanese have similar way of thinking and style of expression. So the English version just like a translation from Chinese. Ok, just be kidding. Excellent expressions have something in common all around the world. But that shows some fine examples for us to translate.
For example, I found one sentence which was translated into Chinese that 绵延数日的霏霏细雨冲走了山间光秃秃的地表上堆积的尘土，漾出一股深邃的湛蓝。How did Rubin translate in English? “Washed clean of summer’s dust by days of gentle rain, the mountains wore a deep, brilliant green.” What a beautiful picture.
Then I’d like to mention a conception about reading from Nagasawa, a friend of Watanabe in the domitory. Nagasawa made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years. He thought that’s the only kind of book he could trust. It’s not that he didn’t believe in contemporary literature, but he didn’t want to waste valuable time reading any book that had not had the baptism of time. So Nagasawa and Watanabe became friends initially because they both liked The Great Gatsby. Although the conception that author must have been dead at least 30 years is too excessive, the book tested by the time is worth reading. Just like our teachers said.
And another interesting one is said that if you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. I sort of agree with it, but I think it is not exact. Nagasawa is a kind of person who concentrate on himself and has a clear and specific aim for the future. To achieve the goal, he can make all the efforts and give it 100 percent and go as far as he can. And he believes an unfair society is a society that makes it possible for you to exploit your abilities to the limit. He self-studies five foreign languages, passes the Civil Service Exam of the Foreign Ministry and becomes a diplomat. He is a perfect man in the eyes of others, whatever in the family background, the marks and achivement, or the leadership. But what I can’t stand is sometimes he lives so self-centred that it is almost a kind of coldness, even to his girlfriend.
I like the words that Reiko wrote in a letter, although in the story it is a totally different situation. That is, all of us are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. We don’t live with the mechanical precision of a bank account or by measuring all our lines and angles with rulers and protractors. If you don’t want to spend time in an insane asylum, you have to open up a little more and let yourself go with life’s natural flow. Work at making yourself happy!
The years between 1968 and 1970 are the miserable period. Maybe I will further understand this novel after learning about the Japanese history during those years, if I have the chance.