Book Review: A Quick Note on Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart

sputnik-sweetheartSputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel. Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire. Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished. (Goodreads)


I have just finished reading Sputnik Sweetheart. It seems to me that I have set for myself a record for reading a novel in a span of only two days. Sputnik Sweetheart not only portrays a picture of human loss and enstrangement in a world that has been perpetually cruel and harsh to human beings but also illustrates the fact that there is within the human heart a deep insurmountable desire, a supernatural longing for something beyond the temporal world; something that surpasses the finitude of our fragile human existence. I personally think that is precisely the very concept which Murakami has delivered perfectly well.

The part that really clutched my heartstrings was in Chapter 14 when K saw Miu again after leaving the Greek island. There he was, sitting inside a taxi on a warm lonely Sunday in the middle of March, and in the corner of his eyes he caught a glimpse of the white-haired woman in the driver seat of a passing Jaguar. It was unmistakable—it was Miu. K was surprised by how different she looked compared to the last time he saw her at the island. An empty shell. In his thoughts, K felt the lingering sadness of the loss of presence, like the heavy feeling inside a room when someone leaves the door and returns no more. And when Miu finally sets to speed up at the signal of the green light, K realizes within him the inevitability of human loss in a world that assures no one of any amount of certainty and permanence.

Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”

We all get to a point when we lose someone or something. But the magnitude of the loss should never outweigh the person who experienced such loss. Perhaps this side of life is not intended for the keeping. Perhaps like Miu, a part of ourselves has departed to the other side. At one point and another we lose the things, the people, we thought we’d be with us until the twilight of our lives. But life proves us wrong, and we must carry on.

So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us—that’s snatched right out of our hands—even if we are left completely changed people with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”

I didn’t have that sort of  ’oceanic aftershock’ about the novel the way I felt when I finished reading Norwegian Wood. But there is something about Sputnik Sweetheart that is far deeper, more haunting than Norwegian Wood. It is this deep dark question that is perpetually at the innermost core of us fragile human beings.

Who in the world am I?

Sputnik off the Shelf

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