Saturday, 12 July 2014

Yesterday by Haruki Murakami Review

Tanimura is looking back on his youth from middle age. He remembers his odd friend Kitaru who was obsessed with the Kansai dialect of Japan despite being born in Tokyo and how he put Kansai lyrics to The Beatles’ Yesterday:

Is two days before tomorrow,
The day after two days ago.

Then Kitaru introduces his girlfriend Erika and an unconventional relationship begins. 

Yesterday feels like someone writing a parody of Haruki Murakami. I’ve read ten books by Murakami so know what his style is like and a lot of familiar themes and images from those books crop up in this short story. Here’s the checklist: an older man looking wistfully back at his youthful past; the same man talking to his former girl about what could have been; a Beatles reference; a Woody Allen film reference; the Moon as an important symbol; lengthy descriptions of food and meal scenes; a female character with a secret. 

Like all Murakami, Yesterday is well written and the scenes and dialogue flow easily into one another. The line “It feels as though these things happened just yesterday” was a bit on the nose, though there’s a very sweet line that goes: “Dreams are the kind of things you can borrow and lend out.”, which sounds, appropriately, like a Paul McCartney lyric. 

That said, the story leaves little impression on the reader and its themes of loss, longing, and identity are better explored in Murakami’s novels. Yesterday is like an artist doing a cover version of one of his own songs. 

You can read the whole thing for free online on The New Yorker’s site here.

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