A Wild Sheep Chase Review

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

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One of the most inspiring books for me is A Wild Sheep Chase,” written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It is inspiring in many ways, starting from the narrative, characters, and ending up with descriptions and the atmosphere of the book as a whole; to me, this is an absolutely unique book.

The book is written on behalf of the main protagonist (by the way, there are no names in “A Wild Sheep Chase”, only nicknames), who is approaching his 30s. His wife had an affair and left him, and he lives a rather simple life: goes to work, meets random women, thinks about different stuff. He works in a small advertising agency; at his work, he gets acquainted with a woman that has a mystic power to draw strange events to herself.

Soon after starting to date with this woman, the main protagonist is contacted by a secretary of a powerful media empire; this secretary wants the protagonist to find a sheep whose picture the protagonist has once used in one of the commercials. The sheep, according to the secretary, is some kind of spirit that possesses people, and grants them with exceptional organizational powers; at the same time, this spirit has some global goal, changing its hosts like gloves to fulfill its aims. The abandoned host either goes crazy or dies.

The protagonist being in such a condition, cannot refuse this demand and has to go searching for the sheep. In his search, he meets and loses different people, learns a lot about himself, sorts through his thoughts and life out. Retelling the plot makes no sense to those who haven’t read the novel–it will probably seem absurd and meaningless (although it’s based on an ancient Chinese legend). Much more reasonable would be to talk about the sensations evoked by this book.

“A Wild Sheep Chase” is a melancholic contemplation that brings stillness to the mind, similar to meditating on a Zen koan. The scenes Murakami describes slowly interweave with the main protagonist’s thoughts and memories of the past; the letters from his friend (who will once play the decisive role in this novel), stories told by random people whom the two main characters meet during their search for the sheep, the author’s descriptions–all this helps to plunge deeper into the atmosphere of the constant inner search, in which all of the novel’s characters seem to be dwelling in.

This book is one of my favorite novels of all times. Although Haruki Murakami has written many other good books, “The Trilogy of the Rat,” to which “A Wild Sheep Chase” belongs, is still an undisputed acme of his writing career. I strongly recommend reading this book to all those who seek inspiration.


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