Tokyo Blues (Norwegian Wood): depression in literature

“From thenight Kizuki died, I was unable to conceive of death (and life) in such a simple way.Death is not opposed to life. Death had been implicit in my being from the beginning. And this was a fact that, try as I might, I could not forget. That night in May, when death took Kizuki at seventeen, it took a part of me. This, one of the reflections of Toru Watanabe, the protagonist of Tokio Blues, Haruki Murakami’s acclaimed novel and marvellous literary gem, is just one example of the weight that life, death, depression and tragic events (suicide, in this case) can have on people.

Just a few years ago, in an interview and when asked if the writer felt any kind of affinity with people suffering from mental illness, the author responded as follows. “When I make someone with a mental illness appear, I don’t make it appear as something unusual, but as something generic, very widespread, typical of human nature”. So it is. Mental illness is something present, still a taboo for many, but a reality that we cannot, must not, turn our backs on.

Summary Tokio Blues: Haruki Murakami and his excellent portrait of life, death and depression

Toru Watanabe, a 37-year-old executive, is landing at the airport of a European city when he hears an old Beatles song. It is Norwegian Wood (as the novel is also known), a melody that will take him back, with a mixture of melancholy and unease, to his youth, to the turbulent Tokio of the 1960s. The protagonist’s mind is gradually filled with memories of his only friend from his adolescence, Kizuki, who, at the age of seventeen, decided to end his life. He also remembers Kizuki’s girlfriend Naoko, a woman with whom Toru had a close friendship that was cut short by this tragic event. A year later, Toru and Naoko meet again at university and start a relationship. However, Kazuki’s death will be a perpetual shadow between them, a tragedy that neither has overcome.

The story

Tokyo Blues is a tremendously sad story that beautifully conveys the sense of loneliness and unease of its protagonists. With exquisitely drawn characters, life and death, as well as the fleetingness of life, take on an astonishing intensity in this work that is contagious to the reader. Moreover, in this story, Murakami brings us closer to all those emotions and scenarios that society often tries to hide. Depression, the suicide of a teenager, suffering and loneliness, as well as human frailty are portrayed in a beautiful and honest way.

what themes does the book Tokio Blues deal with?

But the novel is not only sadness. Delicate and profound, it also deals in an elegant and vitalistic way with first experiences, first loves, the impetus of youth and the processes of healing and acceptance of the human being. The passage from adolescent to adult, the maturation with all its consequences, with all its losses. The emotional scars we have to learn to live with in order to move forward. To find our place in the world.

Tokyo Blues was adapted into a film in 2010 under the original title Noruwei no mori and directed by Gran Anh Hung.

About the author Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami (Kyoto, 1949) is also responsible for, among others, 1Q84 and Death of the Commendatore. He is also the author of the highly personal Underground, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and What I Talk About When I Talk About Writing. Music, Only Music is his latest work. Murakami has received numerous awards, including the Noma, the Tanizaki, the Yomiuri, the Franz Kafka, the Jerusalem Prize and the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, and his name has been repeatedly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. In Spain he has received the Premio Arcebispo Juan de San Clemente, the Orden de las Artes y las Letras and the Premi Internacional Catalunya 2011. Tusquets editores has published twenty of his works.

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