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Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

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Book Corner: Separate orbits

As+an+avid+Murakami+reader%2C+reading+%E2%80%9CSputnik+Sweetheart%E2%80%9D+felt+like+reconnecting+with+an+old+friend%3A+comforting%2C+nostalgic+and+moderately+gut-wrenching.+Complete+with+alternate+universes%2C+moon+portals+and+other+typical+Murakami+narrative+devices%2C+the+plot+follows+a+detective-style+pattern+reminiscent+of+earlier+works+like+%E2%80%9CNorwegian+Wood%2C%E2%80%9D+unfolding+with+a+familiarity+that+is+predictable+yet+enjoyable+all+the+same.
Alena Suleiman
As an avid Murakami reader, reading “Sputnik Sweetheart” felt like reconnecting with an old friend: comforting, nostalgic and moderately gut-wrenching. Complete with alternate universes, moon portals and other typical Murakami narrative devices, the plot follows a detective-style pattern reminiscent of earlier works like “Norwegian Wood,” unfolding with a familiarity that is predictable yet enjoyable all the same.

As the moon casts its enigmatic glow over the landscape, a portal opens to the other side. Leap or stay? Sumire, the protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart,” chooses to leap, in hopes of joining the version of her lover who returns her affection.

As an avid Murakami reader, reading “Sputnik Sweetheart” felt like reconnecting with an old friend: comforting, nostalgic and moderately gut-wrenching. Complete with alternate universes, moon portals and other typical Murakami narrative devices, the plot follows a detective-style pattern reminiscent of earlier works like “Norwegian Wood,” unfolding with a familiarity that is predictable yet enjoyable all the same.

K narrates the tale of his unrequited college love and best friend Sumire. The two often engage in late-night conversations, delving into existential and wildly arbitrary topics like sacrificial dogs or why squids have 10 arms instead of eight. One day, Sumire encounters Miu, a successful and mature businesswoman. Spun into Miu’s orbit like Sputnik to Earth, Sumire falls in love.

Like a Salvador Dalí painting, the novel captures a reality slightly askew, rewarding readers who allow their imagination to roam his surreal narrative elements

Miu employs Sumire, and the two foster a deep connection, becoming traveling companions. However, during their journey across Europe, Miu notifies K from a secluded Greek island that Sumire has vanished after confessing her unrequited feelings for Miu. Although K and Miu fail to find Sumire, one night, K receives a call from Sumire asking him to meet her, marking the end of the novel. In classic Murakami fashion, the ending remains up to interpretation.

“Sputnik Sweetheart” required a second read for me to relish its intricacies fully. Wielding deceptively simple prose, Murakami crafts complex metaphors and symbols, reflecting the partiality of characters’ perception of events. Like a Salvador Dalí painting, the novel captures a reality slightly askew, rewarding readers who allow their imagination to roam his surreal narrative elements.

Within Murakami’s ethereal, gossamer landscapes, characters prove unsettlingly malleable. Weeks after meeting Miu, Sumire’s appearance changes beyond recognition. In Miu’s case, having spent one night trapped in a Ferris wheel, she disassociates, forever losing the part of herself with physical urges. Both instances echo the fluidity of identity and the illusory nature of selfhood. Murakami examines a universal sentiment: After life-changing events, haven’t we all felt as if we were completely different people from yesterday?

The novel also presents a captivating examination of self. As Murakami deduces, “Those ‘good at sensing others’ true feelings’ are often duped by the most transparent flattery. It’s enough to make me ask the question: How well do we really know ourselves?”

Murakami’s musings on loneliness deeply resonated with me. As I flipped through the pages, I found myself reflecting on the pandemic, during which I lost contact with close friends, as well as the portion of myself that I found within them. Through his painting of a poignant picture of individuals yearning for connection in a world that often feels unresponsive, I realized my loss. We may fill ourselves with new experiences, new ideas, new relationships, but the people from that moment are forever gone. Like Sputnik, a lost satellite, a mere chunk of metal junk floating in outer space.

“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful travelling companions, but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal on their own separate orbits.” — Haruki Murakami, “Sputnik Sweetheart”

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About the Contributor
Alena Suleiman, Aquila Co-Editor-in-Chief
Alena Suleiman (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Harker Aquila, and this is her fourth year on staff. Alena wishes to interact with new people and work with all members of staff to craft engaging stories. Beyond journalism, she is an exhibited artist, humanities scholar and art museum enthusiast.

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