The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Additional Summary

Haruki Murakami


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has a studied, leisurely pace, even for a Murakami novel. Toru Okada is thirty, lives in a Tokyo suburb, and is unemployed. His cat, named for his brother-in-law, Noboru Wataya, goes missing. While searching for the cat, Toru’s wife, Kumiko, also disappears. Toru is another Murakami protagonist who loves music, literature, and films. The best thing about being unemployed is that he can read whatever he wants whenever he wants. Without ambition, he is content to drift through life.

The novel’s title is supplied by May Kasahara, a teenage neighbor Toru meets while searching for the cat. He tells her about hearing every morning a bird that sounds like it is winding a spring, so she calls him Mr. Wind-Up Bird. Because they do not know what kind of bird it is and do not even see it, the name suggests the unknowable, ineffable qualities of life. Life and art overlap when Toru hears “Bird as Prophet,” one of Robert Schumann’s Waldszenen (1851; Forest Scenes). A radio announcer explains that the piece is about a mysterious bird who foretells the future.

Because Toru’s life is in a bit more turmoil each time he hears the bird, he begins to associate it with chaos. A mysterious mark that appears on his face also suggests that his life is out of kilter.

The cat is named for the brother-in-law, even though both Toru and Kumiko despise him, an academic whose first book is hailed as a new perspective on economics, leading to his becoming a media celebrity with political potential. Toru and Kumiko see him as overbearing and...

(The entire section is 658 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Fisher, Susan. “An Allegory of Return: Murakami Haruki’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.” Comparative Literature Studies 37, no. 2 (2000): 155-170. Argues that The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is the most Japanese of Murakami’s novels through 1999. Provides a useful overview of Murakami’s life, his fascination with Western culture, and the historical events that shaped the novel.

Japan Foundation, comp. and trans. A Wilde Haruki Chase: Reading Murakami Around the World. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 2008. A compilation of essays by Murakami’s translators as well as by writers and critics who reflect on his global appeal. Accessible to students and general readers.

Rubin, Jay. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. London: Harvill Press, 2002. Written by Murakami’s official translator, this book looks at Murakami’s use of music in his novels as well as the untranslatable nuances to his use of language. Useful for students interested in the gap between the original work and the translation. Includes a chapter on The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Seats, Michael. Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture. Plymouth, England: Lexington Books, 2006. Focuses on idea of the simulacrum (a representation of reality) as a mode of critique of Japanese culture in Murakami’s novels. Provides a useful overview of contexts for and critical reception of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Suter, Rebecca. The Japanization of Modernity: Murakami Haruki Between Japan and the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: Asia Center, Harvard University, 2008. Examines Murakami’s novels in terms of how American readers and critics sense Japan as a new center of modernity and cosmopolitanism. A useful metacritical look at Western assumptions about Japanese culture.