Some books distort the way you perceive life. They force you to confront the issues that you have been running away from all this while; they make you re-think your dreams and goals! Mostly, they leave you staring at that hole within you that you have managed to ignore for so long, and leave you feeling more bereft and alone than you ever thought yourself capable of! For me, Norwegian Wood was just that!
As Toru narrates his best friend Kizuki’s death and later falls in love with Kizuki’s girl friend, Naoko and loses her too, I could connect with his loss at each stage. His thoughts echoed the tremors that I felt within me not so long ago.
One resounding statement that Toru makes in the course of the story is, “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.” He speaks of how ‘in the midst of life, everything revolved around death’. This was a reminder of how I felt when I lost someone for the first time. You are so dazed by the fact that death could snatch away someone from your life that you spend all your time obsessing about death, trying to comprehend it, accept it for what it is!
In a letter to Naoko, Toru speaks to her about how he winds his spring every morning by telling himself that he has ‘to live another good day’ and ‘give it (his) best here just as (Naoko) (is) doing there.’ This is true, you know. Sometimes, knowing that our loved ones are sick and feeling a general sense of helplessness, inspires us to give everything we come across our best-est shot. That way, we assure ourselves that we are not giving in to the helplessness that we feel, and that we are doing our part!
And then there are times when we forget something about someone who passed away. We somehow feel like we are betraying them. Sadly, there is absolutely nothing we can do to bring those memories back, but still we cry, we still moan about that lost memory that we will never get back now!
When the second death finally comes by, it sends Toru in a completely different emotional spiral. His greatest lesson this time was, “no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one” He speaks of learning from the death, but he states soon after that, “but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning”. This could not be further from the truth. You wait for something to come along to cure the pain from the loss, then you realise that the pain is something you should learn to live with, only to realise soon after that, the next pain that comes your way is going to still catch you unawares, no matter how much you thought you had learnt from the first one!
One piece of wisdom that I took back from this book would be to be pickier about the books I read. For, life is too short to spend it reading books everyone else is reading and thinking what everyone else is thinking.
Then, there was the part with the little girl who wanted to learn to play the Piano, and what Reiko had to say about people like her, “They’re blessed with this marvellous talent, but they can’t make the effort to systematize it. They end up squandering it in little bits and pieces.” I can vouch for this particular insight, I see myself dong it sometimes, and I see it all around me. It almost kills me, and would have succeeded too, if only the laziness within me wasn’t so overpowering!
I could relate to Toru’s feeling of getting so involved in something that you shut out everything else. More so, with his description of his relation between him and Midori; “No, we weren’t lovers, but in a way we had opened ourselves to each other even more than lovers do.” I know how it feels to discuss your deepest fears and hopes with someone you barely know. This might not be a crucial fact about your existence, but it is still something that you would not feel comfortable enough talking to your closest friend about…