Blasts from the Past: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (transl. Alfred Birnbaum) (1989)

Cover imageThis is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy into as many hands as I could.

I have the BBC to thank for introducing me to Haruki Murakami’s work. Someone picked A Wild Sheep Chase for Radio 4’s A Good Read way back in my bookselling days and I was intrigued by their description of it, as were many other listeners: we sold shed loads of this wacky novel by a writer hardly anyone in the UK had heard of at the time. It was actually published in Japan in 1982 but not translated into English until 1989.

A Sherlock Holmes-obsessed, chain-smoking advertising executive is pursuing a sheep with a very particular birthmark after pinching an image from a postcard sent by a friend to illustrate some copy. The sheep has been spotted in the photograph by a shady character called ‘The Boss’ who has threatened our unnamed narrator with some very nasty consequences if he fails to track it down. Things become increasingly surreal as the narrator fixes the sheep in his sights on a trail that leads him from Tokyo to the snowy peaks of Hokkaido where he comes face to face with his quarry. There’s a good deal more to it than that but this is a book impossible to encapsulate in just a few words which is part of its charm. I read it with increasingly delighted astonishment. Funny, gripping and wonderfully odd, it’s excellent.

It’s well over twenty years since I read A Wild Sheep Chase but I can still remember the excitement of discovering Murakami, gobbling up everything I could find by him. As for A Good Read, it’s still going strong and still well worth listening to for recommendations.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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18 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (transl. Alfred Birnbaum) (1989)”

  1. I’ve hardly even heard of this Murakami, but it sounds as delightful as ever. After my great experiences with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore last year, I’ll be reading everything of his that I can find. Well, I’m not so bothered about the short stories, but I definitely want to read all his novels and nonfiction.

  2. This sounds wonderful! I’ve only read 2 Murakami, which I really enjoyed & definitely want to read more. I have a feeling this is buried in the TBR pile somewhere so I’ll dig it out 🙂

    1. Thanks for that. No idea why I haven’t read the O’Brien as my partner’s a big fan which means it’s on our shelves. I’ll pull it off. Hope you enjoy the Murakami.

  3. I came across a quote today about March weather in Canada by Carol Shields and am reminded of how much I love her books, especially Unless, which I just reread last year and Swann, which seem to be the most overtly bookish/writerish of her works, but I enjoy them all for different reasons. I’ve only read two Murakami novels, the longest ones, and I often think that I need to make a project of all the rest; I admire his work too.

    1. I still think this is one of of his best if you enjoy the wackier aspects of Murakami. I love Carol Shield’s writing, too, and have often thought of her as a modern Jane Austen. I have a particularly soft spot for The Republic of Love.

      1. That’s another really good one. I have so many quotes from it copied out. that one. There was a Canadian film made of it, too, which I thought was beautifully done and suited the novel very well (the film of Unless too). I had picked Small Ceremonies as my next reread of hers but maybe I’ll jump ahead to The Republic of Love instead. I’m also very fond of Larry’s Party, which is one that I once thought was just “fine” but then reread and absolutely loved it.

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