sputnik sweetheart

Murakami is famed for his weird, random and out-of-this-world plots. If you ever gave me a chapter out of his book at random without telling me its origins, I would be able to spot his unmistakable style.  Always drifting between reality and the imaginary, delving into topics like lesbianism and illicit affairs. Loners never fail to take the center stage as protagonists, and imperfection is the norm. In sputnik sweetheart, characters have a doppelganger, a self that has split away from the original who takes on a life of its own. When the doppelganger has crossed over to the other side, the remaining shell of the individual is left drained of a soul, empty and meaningless. Sumire, with whom all other characters in the book intersect at some point, had disappeared like smoke while holidaying with her crush Miu. Miu’s rejection of Sumire in real life led her to the theory of crossing over to the other side, so Sumire could be united with Miu’s doppelganger in another world.

“I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”

-Yohji Yamamoto

Rarely do I come across perfect women with glossy lives in his books. Some aspect of their personality or outlook is queer enough to steer the plot in a certain direction. The Japanese have an eye for beauty in an unconventional sense. They understand that perfection is unrealistic and therefore, unreal. Murakami emphasizes that when K falls in love with a plain-looking, possibly asexual Sumire who never returns his affections, but instead falls for another woman, Miu, who is exquisite outside but incomplete and detached inside. The only clue to Miu’s brokenness is her full head of snow white hair, which she has ceased to dye but has embraced its natural beauty. What left me pining for closure was that the 3 characters in the love-chain were neither emotionally nor physically satisfied in the end. Life ain’t as convenient as a drama serial ending, and that wanting unfulfilled can lead people into a state of delusion, unable to draw a line between both sides of the world. Life has that element of imperfection that things we cannot control spurn beyond what we had imagined. Drawing beauty out of dysfunction and coming to a closure over someone who had disappeared in our lives, whether deliberately or otherwise, based on our imagination, is the best way to remember him or her.

Love is a mysterious force that defies logic. Someone could be plain to the rest of the world but to a particular someone, the way your eyes connect with his/hers, the style of your old-fashioned clothes, the way your soul connects to him/her, makes his/her heart race and blood to rush to do its magic. A straight guy with a ravenous sex-drive falling for an asexual/lesbian girl, a lesbian girl falling for a married lady 16 years her senior, who is already married to a man whom she has no sexual relations with. And the straight guy who goes around shacking women whom he has no feelings for. It takes some time to dissect love away from sex because apparently, sex does not equal love, though love is best expressed through sex.

Here’s to celebrating beauty in dysfunction. Leave it to the Japanese to teach us that. Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is “to repair with gold”, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Beauty amidst brokenness, displaying scars as a work of art.

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