When my sister gifted me with Sputnik Sweetheart as a heartfelt parting gift (for my then impending departure to America), I couldn’t help roll my eyes. Not out of disdain but because once again, my sister had completely and ever-so-coolly read ME so well. She’d bought me a Murakami novel.
Granted, Murakami novels usually embody certain characteristics that make them rather predictable. The characters are usually hipsteresque college students or graduates who are coming to terms with the real world by resolving very personal issues. And these personal issues are usually to do with past loves or past friendships.
But I can never refuse a Murakami novel and when one landed right in my lap (so to speak), how could I say “thanks but they are kind of predictable?” The whole end-up being: I accepted the gift and chose it to be the Singular Book I would take with me to America.
And so I read it and here are my thoughts.
To begin with, Sputnik Sweetheart is yet another run of the mill Murakami story. Our guy, mysteriously only namedas ‘K’ is in love with Sumire, a hipster wannabe writer if you ever saw one. She dresses in rough khakis and dons a long herringbone trench coat to disguise her feminity. She dreams of Kerouac adventures and even dropped out of her sleepy college to experience real life. But then she meets Miu, a worldly, well dressed, well-mannered lady of the 21st century who has her life together working. Sumire then falls in love with Miu who she starts working under and soon, they’re off travelling across Europe together on business. And then just in the middle of an idyllic Greek getaway after their business is away, Sumire disappears after a sleep walking incident one night.
And following this is the ‘resolution’ of the ‘conflict’ in the story but as with other Murakami novels, neither of these earmarks work normally. The conflict? Sumire disappears to mull things over privately. Resolution? None. No answers.
So what else is new? Increasingly, Murakami’s works seem more about the nitty-gritty details of his story than the overall plotline. It’s more about the exquisite details of the world Murakami paints rather than the arching story.
Obviously, this is off-putting to some readers, those who are interested in solely plot-driven narration, this will not be your cup of tea. Murakami’s work is riddled with the banal and trivial details of life and in most cases, the traditional formula of Exposition, Conflict, Climax and Resolution is thrown completely out the window.
Sputnik Sweetheart is character-driven, tangential story-telling that doesn’t fall far from any Murakami story. Do I have a problem with that? Not yet Internet. Not yet.