A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase
Author: Haruki Murakami
Release Date: 1982 (Japan)/2000 (UK)
Vintage

Sheep aren’t very interesting, they sit in fields and chew grass. A sheep chase couldn’t really be very exciting (one sheep or many sheep?) and it this book proves the point. But while the chase isn’t an exhilarating experience, it instead offers a different type of chase. One which is hard to forget.

The story is the tale of a man being forced into finding a specific one of a kind sheep with a star birth mark. A lot of information is dumped on the reader to explain the situation, history, back story of characters, photos, town locals and such, and the chase is very linear after the first couple of acts step back and forth through the present and past. Everything is clear-cut and the results are tidily led, nothing seems to be pushing for much craziness till the second half of the final act and that’s fine. A book with little in the way of dramatic conflict and tension instead settles for a pleasant stroll through Japan. Everything is slowly built up and the characters seem to share more importance than the sheep themselves, though everyone seems to be obsessed with sheep they come across. It’s a bit like when you play a Pokemon game and everyone insists on forcing them into the conversation. It’s not boring though even if it feels it should be as everything has a dream like state.

I think reading the book lulls you into the world very subtly, the main character and everyone else goes off on tangents about little details in life, and before you know it your part of the world. Everything is as normal and regular as can be as the character makes these observations and you get a clear picture of the world. Then you hear of a crazy sheep possessing plot and some even madder stuff but you accept it and take it as normal as the main character drinking another beer. Seeing the surreal as something comfortable and cosy as the way the protagonist and his girlfriend spend a hotel together is a true showcase of excellent writing. You don’t fall out of this dream you’ve been pulled into and when the story reaches a climax, it all becomes a little emotional. I found the final scenes incredibly poignant and not just because of what the protagonist faces, but because the story ends and you have to leave the world. It may have been a slow almost tedious entry point but you realise this is part of life and the story is throwing different qualities at you, those tedious moments no longer feel tedious but part of this world you want to keep reading.

I put the book down and thought about things. I didn’t think about sheep but I thought of the characters who took part in this journey and how sad I felt that it was over.  A pleasant stroll, tidy and simple to read, were the weird blends with the norm and the world starts to form in a way that makes it feel more real than the one I’m living in right now.

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