Sputnik Sweetheart (1999) – Haruki Murakami


Three stars

Read Jun 03 2014 – Jun 09 2014

Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel.

Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire.

Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished…

After countless visits to Dymocks browsing through the shelves I finally decided to just go ahead and buy some Murakami. I rarely buy books that I’m not completely certain are fantastic (or to finish a series because you can’t just not own the complete series). The covers of his books are absolutely gorgeous and the blurbs sound wonderfully poetic.

Sputnik Sweetheart is my introduction to what I hope will be a passionate and torrid love affair with Murakami’s writings. To start, the title is just divine. It’s ever so slightly obscure but it feels like it means so much more. For some reason the book is vaguely reminiscent of The Ghost’s Child by Harnett. It might be the romantic strains or the exotic vibe of both books, who knows.

I was expecting a surrealism, however it hasn’t quite hit it yet. The text jumps around in fragments, each one another angle, another glimpse into the nature of Sumire. Part of me feels like I should savour reading this book, section by section, letting each part sink in so I can fully appreciate the beauty. The other part of me, the one that is currently happening, is just racing through waiting for that moment where it clicks and I understand how supremely perfect Sputnik Sweetheart is. There are quite a few literary and cultural references which are slightly whooshing by above my head. I feel like I should slow it down, do a quick Wikipedia here and there to understand it better.

Poor K, he has it so bad for Sumire. But isn’t that terribly romantic, to be able to have a friendship like that with someone? Talking about everything and nothing and calling at 3.30 in the morning. The thing about Murakami’s characters is that every single one is portrayed so romantically. I desperately want to be Sumire, buried in books and ideas and trying to find the meaning of life. I desperately want to be K, buffeted by the wind, going in whatever direction life takes me, yearning for a dream. I desperately want to be Miu, with grace and sophistication and elegance and that hint of tragedy that makes it all so much more romantic. I guess the word of today is romantic.

I’m… confused. It’s like I’ve completely missed the obvious point of Sputnik Sweetheart and I’ve just read, well, words. Was it about the loneliness and isolation of life? How you think everything is fine but then in one moment you realise that life is wrong, completely wrong and everyone is desperately alone, pretending that we’re not and we’re really split in two, one which resides here and one on the other side and we travel through space, lonely, not realising that we are all chance encounters and then it’s gone?

I don’t know.


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