Rereading Murakami’s Wild Sheep Chase
By Nick Chhoeun
A Wild Sheep Chase is one of my favorite Haruki Murakami novels and I recently reread it with greater attention to craft. I remembered Murakami’s ability to switch between multiple scenes and chapters fluidly, and I wanted to go back to see how he achieved this so that I could model it toward my own writing.
A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami is a novel set in Japan about an unnamed protagonist and his adventure to find a particular sheep.It’s an odd concept that Murakami successfully transforms into a magical realism story that made it difficult for me to put down. The novel is somewhat part of “The Rat” series that feature or include Murakami’s The Rat character. However, one does not have to read the other novels to understand the significance of this character.
We are introduced to our protagonist who works at an advertising agency and recently got a divorce. He carries on with his life without much reflection on the situation. He is a frequent smoker and drinker, which is not unusual for a Murakami novel, and he mentions one or the other occurring on every page.
Then, a man working for “the Boss,” a very powerful man in Tokyo, blackmails him into finding a sheep in a photograph the advertising company recently used in an advertisement, threatening to put the company out of business if he doesn’t comply. This particular sheep carries its own mystical power that allows it to embody people.
From here, the adventure begins. Our protagonist dates a girl with magical ears and encounters a Sheep Professor and a Sheep Man during his search. These events are only a few of the many strange, amusing situations that unfold.
Murakami unravels this story in a style that is not unfamiliar in his other novels. He uses numerous short chapters to constantly switch scenes. In doing so, the events happen in rapid succession but without confusion because of his attention to detail, from the perspective of our main character. The magical realism is subtle—making surreal elements, such as magical ears, seem believable.
The novel is rich with character development and becomes a story that is about more than finding a particular sheep. Our protagonist dives deeper into the state of his own life during the journey and comes to a realization in the end that makes the reader second-guess the events that occurred previously in the novel.
A Wild Sheep Chase is a remarkable novel, in which, Murakami takes a strange sounding concept and turns it into an examination of character— and an enthralling adventure.
Image: Ada’s Technical Books
Nick Chhoeun is a staff editor at Café Américain and a first-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.