There was a terrible lightness to my body. It was so light and airy, it didn’t feel like my body. I felt as if my spirit had taken up residence inside a body that was not my own. I looked at it in the mirror, but between myself and the body I saw there, I felt a long, terrible distance.
I’m in a middle of his novel The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. In preparation for 1Q84, I ordered three of his best novels and I’m slowly working through them.
You can pick several lenses to view The Wind Up Bird Chronicle through - from the ephemeral nature of romantic love to the ability of an event to have a lasting, tangible effect on the self or, most controversially, Japan’s burden of violence in World War II.
Part of this story takes place at the bottom of a well. One narrative focuses on a Japanese soldier on a mission in World War II. He is on an expedition into enemy territory - his unit is captured by Mongolian and Russian soldiers. He is forced to watch his comrade skinned alive and is subsequently left in the bottom of a dry well to die.
Unlike the soldier’s experience, protagonist Toru places himself in the well voluntarily. Surrounded by darkness, deprived of food and water - he floats in and out of consciousness. At the bottom, he thinks on the nature of the self. How can you know the people you love? How can you know yourself? How can you know what is real and what is fiction? These are the core questions of the book.
The problem of fact/fiction embeds itself into the writting. At several points the reader has no guide to understand if they are reading a dream or a reality. The characters suffer the same confusion.
As it floats to its conclusion, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” includes an almost Joycean range of literary forms: flashbacks, dreams, letters, newspaper stories and transcripts of Internet chats. And no matter how fantastical the events it describes may be, the straight-ahead storytelling never loses its propulsive force. (source)
The broad range of the novel reflects the broad expanse of the human mind. Taru does not climb into the well to discover things about the world. He climbs there to discover things about himself.
The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness.
Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?