Frequently mentioned as a Nobel Literature finalist, few Japanese authors have garnered international acclaim the way Haruki Murakami has. Beloved by both literary elites and more casual readers, release of newest works have frequently been met with fanfare usually reserved for the likes of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. The relative quiet surrounding this most recent release might be because technically, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 or Wind/Pinball are not new.
Dubbed his “Kitchen Table Novels,” Wind/Pinball are Murakami’s first two novels (novellas, really) published in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Until August these titles were difficult to find in English (or any language outside of Japanese), because Murakami felt they were “flimsy.” While the pair certainly is less weighty than some of his more recognized later works, these novels have a stripped down quality that feel refreshing.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Wind/Pinball as an introduction to Murakami, but this translation has something to add to the author’s legacy and is especially recommended for his fans. Ted Goossen echos the excellence of long-time translator, Alfred Birnbaum, capturing the familiar voice and tone. Avid readers will recognize some of Murakami’s trademarks, but let’s just say you’ll have difficulty scoring bingo. Wind/Pinball will be especially interesting to fans of A Wild Sheep Chase because these two novels are the first entries in The Rat Trilogy. Although the background isn’t exactly necessary, getting a glimpse of the friendship between the narrator and the Rat in their younger days adds some depth to the events of AWSC and its quasi-sequel Dance, Dance, Dance.
Possibly more interesting than the novels is the foreword written by Murakami himself. Though he has revealed much in interviews over the years, the nearly 20 page introduction allows Murakami to go into great depth about his awakening as a writer and the development of his style. His use of English in the writing process is particularly illuminating.
Wind/Pinball most likely will not be counted among the noted works in Murakami’s career. The timing of this translation, however, could not be more perfect. After the failure of the English release of 1Q84 in 2011, many Murakami fans seemed to tire of his increasingly bloated works and recycled themes. Wind/Pinball follows more in line with the unheralded follow-up Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and should reassure the public of his place in the literary world.