Study Guide

A Wild Sheep Chase

by Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In A Wild Sheep Chase, Murakami’s first novel to attract international attention, the nameless narrator has been abandoned by his wife, who has run away with his friend. Bored with his job as an advertising copywriter, he thinks of himself as utterly mediocre. A lyric from Irving Caesar’s 1929 song “Just a Gigolo” describes his life: “The world goes on without me.”

His placid existence begins to unravel when a mysterious man threatens to shut down the advertising business because of a picture of sheep grazing that was published in an insurance company newsletter. Because the threat comes from a representative of a powerful right-wing manipulator known as the Boss, it must be taken seriously. The protagonist copied the photograph from a postcard sent by a friend in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan.

En route the narrator meets an old acquaintance, J, a bar owner who has never had a drop of liquor, a typical bit of Murakami whimsical paradox. J encourages the narrator to accept that there are no rules that say things have to follow a certain pattern. Acceptance of the unexpected, of the randomness of events, is a major Murakami theme.

The protagonist learns he is seeking a single sheep, one with a star-shaped birthmark, the same symbol representing the Boss’s organization. He learns how the Boss gained his power and the mysterious part played by this particular sheep. Arriving in Hokkaido, the narrator...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

A Wild Sheep Chase Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Amitrano, Giorgio. The New Japanese Novel: Popular Culture and Literary Tradition in the Work of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana. Kyto, Japan: Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Scuola di Studi sull’Asia Orientale, 1996.

Cassegrd, Carl. Shock and Naturalization in Contemporary Japanese Literature. Folkestone, England: Global Oriental, 2007.

Gabriel, J. Philip. Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

Lai, Amy Ty. “Memory, Hybridity, and Creative Alliance in Haruki Murakami’s Fiction.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 40, no. 1 (March, 2007): 163-179.

McInerney, Jay. “Roll Over, Basho: Who Is Japan Reading, and Why.” The New York Times Book Review, September 27, 1992, p. 1.

Murakami, Fuminobu. Postmodern, Feminist, and Postcolonial Currents in Contemporary Japanese Culture: A Reading of Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, Yoshimoto Takaai, and Karatani Kojin. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Rubin, Jay. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. London: Harvill Press, 2002.

Seats, Michael. Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture. Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2006.

Strecher, Matthew. Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2002.

Strecher, Matthew. Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum, 2002.

Wray, John. “Haruki Murakami: The Art of Fiction CLXXXII.” Paris Review 170 (Summer, 2004): 115-151.