- Sputnik Sweetheart
infobox Book |
name = Sputnik Sweetheart
title_orig = スプートニクの恋人
"Spūtniko no koibito"
language = Japanese
publisher = Harvill Seeker (UK) / Knopf (US)
pub_date = 1999
english_pub_date = April 2001
media_type = Print (
pages = 229 pp (UK paperback edition)
isbn = ISBN 1-86046-825-Xnihongo|"Sputnik Sweetheart"|スプートニクの恋人|Spūtoniku no koibito is a
novelby Haruki Murakami, published in Japanin 1999. An English translation by Philip Gabrielwas published in 2001.
The heroine of the novel is an aspiring author named Sumire, who falls in love with an older woman, Miu, who appears to like Sumire for certain qualities, though she has no time for Sumire's aspirations and ideals. The third character is the unnamed narrator, an elementary school teacher, referred to twice by Sumire only as 'K', who is in love with Sumire, though Sumire does not requite his feelings.
While Sumire is an emotional and spontaneous individual who often appears to be a misfit in society, "K", the narrator, is a person who has through sheer force of will moulded himself into another person, one who integrates seamlessly into the wider society and culture around him, and the transition leaves him emotionally stunted and unable to express his feelings. When Sumire is also, through her interaction with Miu, forcibly shaped into a person other than she is, the transformation is neither permanent nor successful, and Sumire disappears without ever being found or seen again while holidaying with Miu in
Greece, with tragic, haunting consequences for Miu in particular.
"Sputnik Sweetheart" is essentially a three-character novel. Uncharacteristically slim for a Murakami novel, it is the first novel in which Murakami explores
lesbianism in depth, though the principal themes are still familiar ones to the Japanese author's faithful following: the effects of prolonged loneliness and alienation, growing up emotionally stunted in a densely populated and overwhelmingly conformist society, and the conflict between following one's dreams and clamping down on them in order to assimilate into society.
The book's major themes include loneliness and people's inability to truly know themselves or the people they love. This is symbolized by the recurring metaphor of the Sputnik satellites orbiting at a distance from the earth. As in "
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" and " Dance Dance Dance", Murakami uses (or rather, suggests) alternate worlds as a plot device. "K", the narrator, is a markedly different protagonist to those of Murakami's other novels. He is considerably less given to or adept at wisecracks, maintains a respectable and stable profession as a schoolteacher, and is less self-confident and much more introverted and conflicted than any other Murakami protagonist.
Many elements of the plot remain deliberately unresolved, contributing to the idea that true knowledge is elusive, and actual events of the story are obscured in favour of the characters' perceptions.
The book ends with the theme of the Telephone, which appears in numerous books by Murakami, usually when telephoning from a far-away place, whose location is unclear.
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