Rage, Madness, Sex, Drugs, Senses and the Pit — A Review of Ryu Murakami’s Debut Novel, Almost Transparent Blue

A review of Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu MurakamiHave you ever read anything that’s so very hopeless that you wonder why you’re even alive? Or well, I mean, why the characters are even alive?

Every time I read something by Ryu Murakami, that’s the thought that paralyzes me. Why are they alive? I ask myself. The experience of reading becomes a quest to find that answer.

Often though, with Ryu Murakami, I reach no destination nor conclusion. It’s a never-ending pit of hopelessness, pain — either inflicted by others or by the self, madness, rage and/or hysteria with Murakami’s stories and characters.

His debut novel, Almost Transparent Blue, is no different. However, the thing that sets this book apart, is an almost childlike innocence.

This book is not about crazy serial murderers, or about mindless youth seeking retribution, or any other vomit inducing absurdities.

This book is, first and foremost, about innocence. Of that which is, and of that which is lost. The mind-numbing sensations to forget all sensations. The hysteria to forget all pain.

This book struck a nerve. I can’t say I relate. If someone could actually relate that would be worrisome. And yet I know a great many will. Because the loss of youth and hope is so very prevalent among the youth of today. And sadly, as it was back when Murakami himself was a young man who wrote Almost Transparent Blue, and won the prestigious Akutagawa literary prize in Japan.

With dream-like scenes that swing back and forth between grotesque to innocence, what really catches the readers off-guard is the harrowing ending. The almost nauseating plea of the narrator to try and outrun the fears and pains that is life and living itself.

The book ends in as much a chaotic state as it starts.

Nowhere.

And yet, in utter beauty.

Imagine that!

Beauty in nonsense. Beauty in chaos. Beauty in grotesque.

If anyone can trigger empathy in utterly nauseatic and pointless situations as we see throughout this novella, then it’s got to be Ryu Murakami.

He’s rather unique that way.

As for the gist of this book: it’s about the narrator, and his friends. Some closer to his age (which isn’t revealed until much later in the book, and I was surprised at how young he was), some much older than him. The things that draw everyone together in this misfit group of unlikely friends, are sex, drugs, paranoia, hopelessness, sadness, tragedy, and some twisted attempt at finding some form of respite from all the pain that they’re all going through.

That’s where the book starts.

And that’s also exactly where the book ends.

I loved it. If you’re a masochistic reader who loves to torture themselves with hopelessness, then it’s the right book for you, and I bet you’ll love it also.

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