Almost Transparent Blue – Ryu Murakami
August 30, 2009 § 16 Comments
Taken from the blurb inside the cover:
Almost Transparent Blue is a brutal tale of lost youth in a Japanese port town close to an American military base. Murakami’s image-intensive narrative plants a portrait of a group of friends locked in a destructive cycle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. The novel is all but plotless, yet the raw and often violent prose takes us on a rollercoaster ride through reality and hallucination, highs and lows, in which the characters and their experiences come vividly to life. Trapped in passivity, they gain neither passion nor pleasure from their adventures. Yet out of the alienation, boredom and underlying rage and grief emerges a strangely quiet and almost equally shocking beauty.
This is a book which has me at a loss of what to say about it. I had picked this book to read for the Lost In Translation Challenge because the title had sounded oh-so-tasty to me. And because I don’t usually read the blurbs before I start reading the story, I started my journey not knowing what was ahead of me.
I was shocked, to say the least.
The storytelling was indeed ‘violent’, in so many different ways and levels. On one end of the spectrum, the things that were happening within the story were violent. Sex and drugs, even when they are by themselves, are rarely subtle. But when huge quantities of both are mixed together within a single bowl, the result is an overdosage of violence.
But as if that wasn’t enough, even the prose was violent, as is mentioned in the blurb. Just reading the book itself, I felt like I was being pushed and shoved in all directions. Sometimes I felt suffocated, and there were moments when I felt like my whole body was slammed against a wall.
This book is most certainly a very sharp contrast to what I’m used to reading. It is a very disturbing book indeed.
I’m not sure if I can say I enjoyed the book very much. In fact, I had to put it down after reading only up to about page 60 (which was already halfway through the book) because I felt like I couldn’t relate to the characters. A lot of the time, I felt lost within the story, I didn’t know who was talking, or who was doing what. Everything was so haphazard, I didn’t know what was really happening, and what was just hallucination.
I picked it up again after letting it rest for about a day. Maybe that little shift in my perspective was a much needed one, or maybe I just came a little more well-prepared, because I found that I started to understand a little better what might have been Murakami’s intention by writing the book in such a way.
There are still so many aspects of this book that I do not understand. But rare is a book that repels and intrigues me at the same time.
Conclusion: 2.5/5. I may put this book down as something I might want to pick up again after I’ve given it a few years. They say sometimes, a book’s readability depends hugely on the reader’s frame of mind.