Crossing the forest. Norwegian Wood. Murakami Haruki. 1987
Time is represented by a long flashback told by thirty-seven years old Watanabe Tōru while is flying on a Boeing 747: there he recognises the tunes of “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles and he starts to remember some of the events of his youth that left a mark on him. The title of the song is intended as “made of wood”, however Murakami in the Japanese title of the novel uses a word meaning “forest” introducing a scenario relevant to the book.
In fact, at a first level the space is Tokyo portrayed as full of turmoil and students’ protests against the established order, but at a second level the space is defined by the emotional forest that Watanabe is about to cross, between moments of deep sorrow and personal growth, in order to process difficult concepts such as suicide and sexuality, to become aware of how death and life are interconnected.
A vivid style and a nostalgic tone are able to describe the symbiotic relationship between life and death through the narration of series of events concerning the novel’s characters: splendid and complex individuals, whose humanity though had been broken by too intense experiences. We get to understand this relationship also following Watanabe’s adolescence through significant encounters and cultural references such as the Beatles, “the Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann, and “the great Gatsby” by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, which allow Murakami to skillfully to tell the depth of sensitivity’s traps while connecting western cultural scenarios to eastern emotions.
“The well lay precisely on the border where the meadow ended and the woods began—a dark opening in the earth a yard across, hidden by the meadow grass. Nothing marked its perimeter—no fence, no stone curb (at least not one that rose above ground level). It was nothing but a hole, a mouth open wide. The stones of its collar had been weathered and turned a strange muddy white. They were cracked and had chunks missing, and a little green lizard slithered into an open seam. You could lean over the edge and peer down to see nothing. All I knew about the well was its frightening depth. It was deep beyond measuring, and crammed full of darkness, as if all the world’s darknesses had been boiled down to their ultimate density.”
Life and Death intertwine in a dramatic tension between the quiet sweetness of lawns and the impetuous atmospheres of forests getting to form a mixed journey which runs along a deep and dark hole that can change their course and perception, trying to swallow anyone unable to cope with its darker tones. However music and positive energy accompany the travellers helping them cross the forest to reach an active dimension from which, having learnt to find their way through it, to look at darkness with eyes open.