An advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend and casually appropriates the image for an advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes readers from Tokyo to the remote mountains of northern Japan, where the unnamed protagonist has a surprising confrontation with his demons.
About the Author
Date of Birth:January 12, 1949
Place of Birth:Kyoto, Japan
Education:Waseda University, 1973
Read an Excerpt
November 25, 1970
Wednesday Afternoon Picnic
It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition. A friend rang me up and read it to me. Nothing special. Something a rookie reporter fresh out of college might've written for practice.
The date, a street corner, a person driving a truck, a pedestrian, a casualty, an investigation of possible negligence.
Sounded like one of those poems on the inner flap of a magazine.
"Where's the funeral?" I asked.
"You got me," he said. "Did she even have family?"
Of course she had a family.
I called the police department to track down her family's address and telephone number, after which I gave them a call to get details of the funeral.
Her family lived in an old quarter of Tokyo. I got out my map and marked the block in red. There were subway and train and bus lines everywhere, overlapping like some misshapen spiderweb, the whole area a maze of narrow streets and drainage canals.
The day of the funeral, I took a streetcar from Waseda. I got off near the end of the line. The map proved about as helpful as a globe would have been. I ended up buying pack after pack of cigarettes, asking directions each time.
It was a wood-frame house with a brown board fence around it. A small yard, with an abandoned ceramic brazier filled with standing rainwater. The ground was dark and damp.
She'd left home when she was sixteen. Which may have been the reason why the funeral was so somber. Only family present, nearly everyone older. It was presided over by her older brother, barely thirty, or maybe it was her brother-in-law.
Her father, a shortish man in his mid-fifties, wore a black armband of mourning. He stood by the entrance and scarcely moved. Reminded me of a street washed clean after a downpour.
On leaving, I lowered my head in silence, and he lowered his head in return, without a word.
I met her in autumn nine years ago, when I was twenty and she was seventeen.
There was a small coffee shop near the university where I hung out with friends. It wasn't much of anything, but it offered certain constants: hard rock and bad coffee.
She'd always be sitting in the same spot, elbows planted on the table, reading. With her glasses--which resembled orthodontia--and skinny hands, she seemed somehow endearing. Always her coffee would be cold, always her ashtray full of cigarette butts.
The only thing that changed was the book. One time it'd be Mickey Spillane, another time Kenzaburo Oe, another time Allen Ginsberg. Didn't matter what it was, as long as it was a book. The students who drifted in and out of the place would lend her books, and she'd read them clean through, cover to cover. Devour them, like so many ears of corn. In those days, people lent out books as a matter of course, so she never wanted for anything to read.
Those were the days of the Doors, the Stones, the Byrds, Deep Purple, and the Moody Blues. The air was alive, even as everything seemed poised on the verge of collapse, waiting for a push.
She and I would trade books, talk endlessly, drink cheap whiskey, engage in unremarkable sex. You know, the stuff of everyday. Meanwhile, the curtain was creaking down on the shambles of the sixties.
I forget her name.
I could pull out the obituary, but what difference would it make now. I've forgotten her name.
Suppose I meet up with old friends and mid-swing the conversation turns to her. No one ever remembers her name either. Say, back then there was this girl who'd sleep with anyone, you know, what's-her-face, the name escapes me, but I slept with her lots of times, wonder what she's doing now, be funny to run into her on the street.
"Back then, there was this girl who'd sleep with anyone." That's her name.
Of course, strictly speaking, she didn't sleep with just anyone. She had standards.
Still, the fact of the matter is, as any cursory examination of the evidence would suffice to show, that she was quite willing to sleep with almost any guy.
Once, and only once, I asked her about these standards of hers.
"Well, if you must know . . . ," she began. A pensive thirty seconds went by. "It's not like anybody will do. Sometimes the whole idea turns me off. But you know, maybe I want to find out about a lot of different people. Or maybe that's how my world comes together for me."
"By sleeping with someone?"
It was my turn to think things over.
"So tell me, has it helped you make sense of things?"
"A little," she said.
From the winter through the summer I hardly saw her. The university was blockaded and shut down on several occasions, and in any case, I was going through some personal problems of my own.
When I visited the coffee shop again the next autumn, the clientele had completely changed, and she was the only face I recognized. Hard rock was playing as before, but the excitement in the air had vanished. Only she and the bad coffee were the same. I plunked down in the chair opposite her, and we talked about the old crowd.
Most of the guys had dropped out, one had committed suicide, one had buried his tracks. Talk like that.
"What've you been up to this past year?" she asked me.
"Different things," I said.
"Wiser for it?"
That night, I slept with her for the first time.
About her background I know almost nothing. What I do know, someone may have told me; maybe it was she herself when we were in bed together. Her first year of high school she had a big falling out with her father and flew the coop (and high school too). I'm pretty sure that's the story. Exactly where she lived, what she did to get by, nobody knew.
She would sit in some rock-music café all day long, drink cup after cup of coffee, chain-smoke, and leaf through books, waiting for someone to come along to foot her coffee and cigarette bills (no mean sum for us types in those days), then typically end up sleeping with the guy.
There. That's everything I know about her.
From the autumn of that year on into the spring of the next, once a week on Tuesday nights, she'd drop in at my apartment outside Mitaka. She'd put away whatever simple dinner I cooked, fill my ashtrays, and have sex with me with the radio tuned full blast to an FEN rock program. Waking up Wednesday mornings, we'd go for a walk through the woods to the ICU campus and have lunch in the dining hall. In the afternoon, we'd have a weak cup of coffee in the student lounge, and if the weather was good, we'd stretch out on the grass and gaze up at the sky.
Our Wednesday afternoon picnic, she called it.
"Everytime we come here, I feel like we're on a picnic."
"Really? A picnic?"
"Well, the grounds go on and on, everyone looks so happy . . ."
She sat up and fumbled through a few matches before lighting a cigarette.
"The sun climbs high in the sky, then starts down. People come, then go. The time breezes by. That's like a picnic, isn't it?"
I was twenty-one at the time, about to turn twenty-two. No prospect of graduating soon, and yet no reason to quit school. Caught in the most curiously depressing circumstances. For months I'd been stuck, unable to take one step in any new direction. The world kept moving on; I alone was at a standstill. In the autumn, everything took on a desolate cast, the colors swiftly fading before my eyes. The sunlight, the smell of the grass, the faintest patter of rain, everything got on my nerves.
How many times did I dream of catching a train at night? Always the same dream. A nightliner stuffy with cigarette smoke and toilet stink. So crowded there was hardly standing room. The seats all caked with vomit. It was all I could do to get up and leave the train at the station. But it was not a station at all. Only an open field, with not a house light anywhere. No stationmaster, no clock, no timetable, no nothing--so went the dream.
I still remember that eerie afternoon. The twenty-fifth of November. Gingko leaves brought down by heavy rains had turned the footpaths into dry riverbeds of gold. She and I were out for a walk, hands in our pockets. Not a sound to be heard except for the crunch of the leaves under our feet and the piercing cries of the birds.
"Just what is it you're brooding over?" she blurted out all of a sudden.
"Nothing really," I said.
She kept walking a bit before sitting down by the side of the path and taking a drag on her cigarette.
"You always have bad dreams?"
"I often have bad dreams. Generally, trauma about vending machines eating my change."
She laughed and put her hand on my knee, but then took it away again.
"You don't want to talk about it, do you?"
"Not today. I'm having trouble talking."
She flicked her half-smoked cigarette to the dirt and carefully ground it out with her shoe. "You can't bring yourself to say what you'd really like to say, isn't that what you mean?"
"I don't know," I said.
Two birds flew off from nearby and were swallowed up into the cloudless sky. We watched them until they were out of sight. Then she began drawing indecipherable patterns in the dirt with a twig.
"Sometimes I get real lonely sleeping with you."
"I'm sorry I make you feel that way," I said.
"It's not your fault. It's not like you're thinking of some other girl when we're having sex. What difference would that make anyway? It's just that--" She stopped mid-sentence and slowly drew three straight lines on the ground. "Oh, I don't know."
"You know, I never meant to shut you out," I broke in after a moment. "I don't understand what gets into me. I'm trying my damnedest to figure it out. I don't want to blow things out of proportion, but I don't want to pretend they're not there. It takes time."
"How much time?"
"Who knows? Maybe a year, maybe ten."
She tossed the twig to the ground and stood up, brushing the dry bits of grass from her coat. "Ten years? C'mon, isn't that like forever?"
"Maybe," I said.
We walked through the woods to the ICU campus, sat down in the student lounge, and munched on hot dogs. It was two in the afternoon, and Yukio Mishima's picture kept flashing on the lounge TV. The volume control was broken so we could hardly make out what was being said, but it didn't matter to us one way or the other. A student got up on a chair and tried fooling with the volume, but eventually he gave up and wandered off.
"I want you," I said.
"Okay," she said.
So we thrust our hands back into our coat pockets and slowly walked back to the apartment.
I woke up to find her sobbing softly, her slender body trembling under the covers. I turned on the heater and checked the clock. Two in the morning. A startlingly white moon shone in the middle of the sky.
I waited for her to stop crying before putting the kettle on for tea. One teabag for the both of us. No sugar, no lemon, just plain hot tea. Then lighting up two cigarettes, I handed one to her. She inhaled and spat out the smoke, three times in rapid succession, before she broke down coughing.
"Tell me, have you ever thought of killing me?" she asked.
"Why're you asking me such a thing?"
Her cigarette still at her lips, she rubbed her eyelid with her fingertip.
"No special reason."
"No, never," I said.
"Honest. Why would I want to kill you?"
"Oh, I guess you're right," she said. "I thought for a second there that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to get murdered by someone. Like when I'm sound asleep."
"I'm afraid I'm not the killer type."
"As far as I know."
She laughed. She put her cigarette out, drank down the rest of her tea, then lit up again.
"I'm going to live to be twenty-five," she said, "then die."
July, eight years later, she was dead at twenty-six.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The headline pretty much sums it up. I love Murakami so I liked this book. However, in comparison with his other works, I found this one a bit scattered and affected. I wouldn't recommend this book if it's your first Murakami-you might get discouraged; instead, try: Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart (a good starter book), or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
I would recommend this book because it draws you in in the beginning so as you read it gest more and more interesting.I really like the author's style which is very discriptive, that mekes it easy to understand.Overall the sory is not the best but it also teaches you that when you find somethin that gets your attention to hold on to the and which is the best part of it.
This book is, unbeknownst to most readers of the English edition, actually the third book in a serious, the first two being 'Listen to the Sound of the Wind' and 'Pinball in 1973.' However, I do not believe these have been translated into English yet. Hopefully they will be soon. As I haven't read this book in English, I cannot comment on the translation, but I know that this is a fabulous book to follow up the first two and surpasses them. The main character has such a deep soul in a shallow world, and so lonely. I cannot wait to read the next in the series, 'Dance, Dance, Dance.'
It was quite a roller coaster ride but it was well worth it. Loved the twists and turns and flips it took. Look forward to reading more Murakami masterpieces.
I enjoyed the quiet surrealism of this. And the thing about the power of her ears.
A well-written existential noir. A little slow going at first, but builds into a beautiful and brilliant finale. I enjoyed it more than its sequel "Dance, Dance, Dance", but not more than Murakami's more acclaimed works like "Norwegian Wood" and "Kafka on the Shore". A solid addition to Murakami's brilliant corpus.
Ok you can blame the bookstore at my school for this one XD I picked this up at the bookstore because I had very little of 'the wanting seed' left to read so well I was looking around at random books and this sort of caught my eye. Once I read the synopsis I decided it was at least worth a try so I read through maybe a chapter and ended up buying it. This book is very well written. Honestly while reading it, it doesn't seem as long as it is. The story progression was very natural (although the story's content is weird) and by the end of the book it didn't seem like all that much happened. Thats not to say the story wasn't interesting though. I really liked it, and I think I liked it because the story is pretty odd. I don't think the synopsis actually says this but essentially its about the quest to find a mutant sheep with a star on its back. Why? Well you have to read it to know now don't you XD Anyway back to my lets not give away the story review, I really liked this book and will likely end up reading others by Murakami as a result.
This is not a review, but some notes I want to attach to this book.
The letter from The Rat seemed to come out of the blue, and it wasn't until I learned that this is the third book that Murakami wrote with these characters (and linked in what's called "The Rat Trilogy") that I understood lines like "you remind me of when I was a comparatively regular guy" have a context that justify them.
All the references to the narrator's reading Sherlock Holmes underscores the "cover story invented just for me" aspect of this book that appears in "The Red-Headed League."
There is a real Junitaki or "Twelve Falls" waterfall, but it's not in Hokkaido.
I am a fan of this author. I enjoy reading his novels while moving around: on the subway, in an airplane, amongst distractions. Murakami verges on being little more than an indie rock version of a standard thriller/suspense writer¿producing the literary equivalent of films like ¿Donnie Darko.¿ Apparently, I even read and enjoyed the sequel to this book (¿Dance Dance Dance¿), without realizing that I had a sequel in my hands. This all leads up to me admitting that ¿The Wild Sheep Chase¿ was disappointing; it is Murakami¿s first novel and I don¿t believe he¿d hit his stride or found his voice¿though it is unmistakably forming.In typical Murakami fashion, the novel slowly reveals the latent potential in a respectful but withdrawn person on the far side of personal difficulties. This potential makes itself known in the process of an implausible quest that dispenses with the impossibility of moving easily between fields of existence or universes in such a natural and understated way that the characters remain largely unruffled. Murakami¿s seamless, played-down narration of the uncanny is one of his strengths (think the conclusion of ¿Wind up Bird Chronicles¿ or most of ¿Hard Boiled Wonderland). In his freshman novel, however, he only dabbles with it in the could-this-be-a-hallucination/dream/ghost? sort of way¿instead of making you eat the fact of parallel universes and impossible psychic abilities, like they are your daily vegetables.The protagonist has a standard Murakami sidekick in toe (a, strong, independent, but similarly disengaged female) who is a bit less interesting to read about than usual (all she does is have hunches); but the malignant force of the book is amusingly characterized. The motivation of the titular sheep is comic and its history, as narrated by the somewhat vexing sheep man, is an amusing read.Altogether, Murakami has written much better books; I would skip this one unless you are a real fan.
Bloke goes looking for a sheep with a marking on it's body. There you go - the plot is so simple isn't it. Urm...no.The book leads you down many paths, takes you back round in a circle, steps off the pavement of reality, and wanders off into the highway of consciousness. If you want a nice sensible plot where all the ends tie up nicely, and you fully understand what you have just read, I would advise you give this book a wide berth. That said, if you are picking up a Murakami, there is a fair chance you will know better than to expect the above.Oddball, humorous, and obsessed with tiny details that probably have nothing to do with anything, I couldn't help but like this book. I almost feel annoyed with myself for feeling that way as it is fairly unsatisfying, but there you have it. Not as good as others I have read of his, and probably a bad place to start if you have not read his work before, but enough there to keep a Murakami fan entertained if not thoroughly enriched.
"A Wild Sheep Chase" is an acid-trip kind of read about a wild treasure hunt / mystery / adventure, with fantastic events and characters, such as the limo driver with access to God's personal phone number.The Sheep Man alone, speaking in phrases with no spaces between words ( "Hopeyoufindyourfriendandthatsheepbeforetoolong") is such a compelling and unusual literary vehicle that Murakami used him in subsequent work.But no matter how crazy the events, they are narrated in a simple, almost bland tone. The fusion of fantastic subject matter and low-key writing style is pure Murakami, and is a large part of his iconic appeal (at least for me).This is nowhere near Murakami's opus ( see "The Wind-Up Bird Crhonicle") but is an easy intro to the author's work, and appears to be the springboard for some of his recurring themes. The few awkward phrases should probably be chalked up to translation issues. Overall, it is a compelling and highly unusual read with tons of great quotes: "a friend to kill time is a friend sublime."
I tried to read this. I really did but I couldn't finish it. Two thirds of the way in the book got really really boring. There was so much superfluousness.
fiction, surreal, postmodern, japanese, sheep
It may have been just the frame of mind I was in at the time, but I found The Wind Up Bird Chronicle too strange and directionless about 250 pages in to continue. Despite this, when I found a copy of A Wild Sheep Chase on the street I thought I'd give Murakami another try. This is shorter but is another exercise in abstraction that leaves far more questions than it answers. The characters are thinly sketched and they seem quite disconnected from each other and any recognisable reality - to me at least. They are bound, however, by an underlying force that makes you wonder about a hidden ordering superstructure. A spooky hidden ordering superstructure that guides everyday life. And that is something worth wondering about, if only to feel creeped out which can be fun.
I LOVE Murakami! I haven't felt like this about an author in a good while. I want to read everything he's written. He is quirky, poetic, philosophical, and entertaining. His language is beautiful in translation. I wonder what it's like in Japanese! Sheep Chase is a weird, but compelling story, with deep and playful one-liners throughout. Dance Dance Dance continues the story. I get big crushes on his protagonists, even though I think they'd frustrate the hell out of me if I actually met them.
I enjoyed Murakami's playful writing in this book with:Sheep wordplay: getting 'sheeped'; becoming 'sheepless';A girl with sexually irresistible ears;A sheep in sheep's clothing;A sheep about to take over the world (forcing me to think of the Biblical reference: "Blessed are the meek--for they shall inherit the earth")My response to Murakami about this book (borrowed from John McEnroe): You can't be serious!.
I have read a few other Murakami books (Wind-Up Bird..., Kafka on the Shore, After Dark), all of which I enjoyed. A Wild Sheep Chase had a very intriguing premise, and I was quickly drawn in to its mystery. Although this was enjoyable read, I had no idea what was going on at the end, or what the book was trying to say. Not that this makes it any less of a novel, but the Japanese cultural aspects that shaped how the mystery played out were lost on me, and of course as a novel in translation, not explained at all. If you've never read Murakami, I'd try Kafka on the Shore, or Wind-Up Bird Chronicle first. Or at least read about Shinto before tackling this one.
Audiobook............Oddly enough, despite the fact that I am a huge Murakami fan, I did not particularly like this novel. I think it is because I had read most of his later works and then read this, one of his earliest. It is strange, but I could see bits and pieces of his later novels throughout this one. I guess I would say that all the seeds of Murakami's greatness are first planted here, but they did not come to fruition until later. Early versions of his symbolism, favorite subplots, and humor are here......just not fully developed.
This is probably my favourite Murakami. The story is crazy & full of unbelievable surreal happenings, but rooted in a very believable world that makes it all the more immersive. I love Murakami's aloof style & attention to detail.
A Wild Sheep Chase is an interesting book about a mission to find one special sheep among thousands in Hokkaido, Japan. Murakami has a mind like no other and never fails to creat a plot with wit, twists and dangerious bends.
The first couple chapters of Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase are beautifully written and very effective--they slowly start to weave a story about a man's unsuccessful romantic relationships. These initial chapters are told with an intense attention to detail, both physical, visceral details and emotional details.But then the book gets "weird" and takes a nose-dive.I say "weird" in quotation marks because nothing in the first two hundred and fifty pages (of a 350-page book) is really that surreal or fantastic. What's more, the plot--briefly, the story of the narrator searching for a sheep in a photograph taken by a friend--is developed at a snail's pace. The "wild" in the title seems to me to be a terrific misnomer.Instead of developing the story naturally, through action, Murakami relies on dialog to hash out the novel's more surreal elements. The conversations that the characters have are painful, unbelievable, and unnatural. Such as:"To return to the cyst, what I mean to say is that the period in which the cyst appeared coincided precisely with the period in which he underwent a miraculous self-transformation.""In your hypothesis," I said, "there was no casual relationship between the cyst and the self-transformation; instead, the two were governed in parallel by some mysterious overriding factor.""You catch on quickly," said the man. "Precise and to the point." Well, I don't catch on quickly, apparently, because I just didn't understand the vast majority of whatever it is they're talking about. And who talks like this, anyway, even in translation? Based on the strength of the first chapters, I won't hesitate to pick up Murakami's realistic fiction, but I think I'll stay far away from his overwrought "fantasy."
Part 3 of the trilogy of the Rat is, at least as far as the quality of the prose goes, about on par with its predecessor, Pinball, 1973. This means that it's an improvement over Hear the Wind Sing, but not up to the same quality as Murakami's output.Plotwise, though Murakami considers it his first novel that's any good, I would actually consider it a bit of a step down from Pinball. Whereas the other had a softer, gentler, and more relaxed tone, at times Wild Sheep's attempts at oddness feel forced and a bit too manic. (e.g. Anything involving the Sheep Man.)
A truly existential and magical ride. I had no idea where we were going and loved it when we got there.
Murakami, like other Japanese fiction writers, dwells on the minutae of mundane human life until it begins to give up its metaphysical secrets¿revelations about our tenuous grasp on our own existence that rise out of boredom and daily repetition, and a blurring of life and death that settles into normality like vague, perpetual drunkenness. Not as complex as come of his later narratives, but uses the skeleton of a detective story to send its protagonist out on a search for something only vaguely defined¿which turns out to be the limit of what a person can understand without really trying.
Amazing, although as with most of Murakami's books I feel I need a few more readings to really figure it out. A must read...