Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami

Source – Library

Translator Alfred Birnbaum

Now this is a book I jumped for joy when I got from Library on an inter library loan from Manchester ,it is Murkami’s second book and the second part of the rat trilogy the others being the first hear the wind sing and the last part wild sheep chase .Now this book, like the first part is only available in Japan in english translation as Murakami has never let the rights be issued world-wide ,so what is it about .

The book is classic Murakami or what we now call his classic style ,the ,main character and narrator a nameless lonely man in his twenties works as a translator and his friend the rat ,we follow the narrator during a obession with pinball he starts playing late a night a relationship with a pair of twins called 208 209 by the narrator ,this obessin=on leads him in the end on the quest for a lost machine ,elsewhere there are references to themes that crop up in Murakami’s others books ,wells for one even couple mention of hard-boiled eggs but maybe I was looking to hard the book is gentle a man struggling with the real world ,he looks back on his student days a dead girlfriend ,yet another event Murakami use in his other books .

By the time I broke 150,000 ,winter had really set in .There I d be alone in the freezing deserted games center ,bundled up in my duffel coat , muffler  wrapped around my neck up to my ears grappling with the machine .

the narrator talking about his obsession .

Well what did I think of this book it was a great insight into what madeMurakami the writer he is now this has parts used in other books and in some way maybe this narrator is nearest Murakami the man ,I did miss Jay Rubin’s translation style thou a certain zing you get from his work withMurakami particular with the more recent books were they have worked together for a number of years .Not to take away from Alfred Binbaum ,who lives in Japan and has translator a number of other books and teaches creative writing at the moment in Japan ,he does a great job but the tie between Rubin and Murakami isn’t there .Murakami use lots of references to music and film stars of the time which gives it a very personnel feel ,only music missing was the who which I kept hoping to see because he must have listen to pinball wizard at some point whilst reading this book .Why this book yet to have a UK publication is beyond me it is a sign post on the road to the writer Murakami is today .



22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stewart
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 08:58:51

    Perhaps worth bearing in mind that the Birnbaum translations are not all that fancy because Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 were intended for domestic Japanese students learning English rather than for wider world consumption.

    I have a copy of Hear The Wind Sing somewhere. Think I’ve started it twice and, even given its size, been too bored to finish it.


    • winstonsdad
      Mar 24, 2011 @ 21:32:44

      Some said just same about hear the wind in review other day still want read it at some point ,I agree with nature of translation and if I want to learn japanese sure the process could be reversed using this book in some way ,all the best stu


  2. Sakura
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:21:51

    I haven’t read this yet and am dying to read it:) I’m surprised that you got it from the library (which is really great!) It’s interesting to see the difference in translation and as I’ve only read his more recently translated novels, I wonder, whether like you, I will notice it.


  3. Tony
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 12:04:04

    “Why this book yet to have a UK publication is beyond me…”

    Mr. M himself doesn’t want his first two works published outside Japan as he doesn’t consider them good enough.

    he’s wrong, of course 😉


    • winstonsdad
      Mar 24, 2011 @ 21:36:18

      Very much so tony maybe at some point he will either the two current translations or let rubin re do them suprised not thought of it with iq84 due very soon ,all the best stu


  4. Gavin
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 13:51:47

    Oh, I hope I can find this one. Maybe it will help me with Murakami after my experience with “Kafka on the Shore”.


  5. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 17:30:01

    I never had a problem with Birnbaum though I admit Rubin’s good.

    Not only have I not read this one, I hadn’t heard of it. I would definitely like to see it published in the UK.

    When you say part of the rat trilogy, Wild Sheep Chase has a sequel called Dance, Dance, Dance. Are you sure they’re linked? I suspect Wild is separate but I could be wrong. If I am though it’s a tetratology rather than a trilogy as Dance definitely follows up on Wild.

    Fascinating writer Murakami. I sometimes think his fame actually reduces the respect he gets. He’s seen as popular rather than literary sometimes, but I think that’s quite wrong. He’s a marvellous writer.

    Great find Stu.

    Gavin, what went wrong with Kafka on the Shore? I’ve not read that one, but I have read others so I might be able to throw in some additional suggestions of others to try.


  6. Stewart
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 21:22:17


    I believe the three are correctly the Trilogy of the Rat. Dance Dance Dance is the only Murakami I’ve read in full and I don’t recall anything to do with ‘the Rat’ in it. May be wrong, though. In that sense, it’s perhaps a progression from A Wild Sheep Chase, rather than a ‘Rat’ book.


  7. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 21:26:11


    Dance, Dance, Dance is definitely a sequel to Wild Sheep Chase – I’ve read both. Looking at wikipedia though it’s not apparently part of the Rat trilogy because of the change of themes (so just as you say).

    I’ve never heard before of a book being part of a trilogy but it’s sequel not being part. No surprise though that Murakami is the one breaking the ordinary rules.


  8. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 07:23:56

    I hardly get any of my books from a library. In fact there are no non-academic library I know of. There used to be the Accra Library but don’t know if it still works. This week I have seen some other bloggers blogging about books by Murakami. Perhaps I should be reading him soon. Thanks Stu


  9. Geosi
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 09:30:05

    Have not yet read this author but it seems his name is all over the place. Thanks for stripping bare this book and would look forward to reading it a point in time.


  10. Tom Cunliffe
    Mar 26, 2011 @ 08:00:05

    I’ve not read any Murakami since Kafka On The Shore came out -which I loved. This sounds interesting – its a shame that perhaps the translation isn’t the best


  11. parrish
    Mar 26, 2011 @ 15:40:17

    For more information on The man & his works read Jay Rubin’s ” Haruki Murakami & the music of words”.


  12. JoV
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 07:21:02

    I have got this in e-book format and haven’t read it yet. I must admit I’m nervous about reading his earlier work. Albert Birnbaum translate most of his earlier work and does a good job for “Hardboiled wonderland….”.

    I’ll read this soon. Thanks for the review Stu.


  13. Trackback: Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami « chasing bawa

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March 2011


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