I have just emerged from my first foray into Japanese literature (translated into English, of course). Six hundred pages of surrealism and Japanese symbolism has me worn out, but I’m glad I made the effort. To save you from reading my own synopsis of the novel, here is what is written on the back of the book:
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.
At once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.
While I’m sure I did not completely grasp everything the author was trying to evince, I did find myself intrigued until the very end. There are many things you can discuss after reading this novel, but more than anything, I enjoyed the digressions into episodes of Japanese history during World War II (e.g., Japan’s campaign in Manchuria), which are not typically part of the American education curriculum. They were both gruesome and fascinating.
So, if anyone has thoughts on this novel, or other Japanese fiction recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them!