An ad within an online publication shows an old picture representing a herd. Some time later, the trustee of an old extreme right-wing ideologist known as the Master contacts the graphic author of this piece. After receiving the odd task to track down one of the sheep in the picture, the protagonist sets off for Hokkaido with a bizarre girl, who seems to possess unusual psychic powers.
A Wild Sheep Chase is Haruki Murakami’s first novel and – as it often happens in a first work – it has its shortcomings. Nonetheless, it already reveals the kind of writer the author wanted to become, tackling all the following themes that would be at the basis of his most successful literature: the analysis of the world through perceptions, characters depicted through their function rather than their names, surreal and almost magical atmospheres, his strong introspective look, the research felt as the essence of one’s existence.
However, the young author is still lacking here the capacity to skillfully melt these ingredients to be the integral part of the story and not unresolved mentions of a plot that sometimes risks going off the rails.
The novel does deserve to be read for the way the author deals with Japan’s loss of identity that also concerns the generation Murakami belongs to. Describing the story of an ideologist whose fate is connected to that of a magical sheep, a strong critique and an overflowing scepticism towards politics and those holding the power become evident.
They are letting Japan’s potential die. This is clear in the melancholy description of the small, crumbling city of Hokkaido, where part of the story takes place or, more evidently, in the event concerning the old man hainu who lets himself die after his son passing away in a war he does not understand and to which he does not belong.
An interesting, valuable read, though still imperfect, which might interest either Murakami’s admirers or, generally, those who are looking for an unusual book.
Translation by Monica Frigerio (edited by Francesca Ceccarelli)