Pinball, 1973

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Pinball, 1973
Pinball english.jpg
cover of English edition
Author Haruki Murakami
Original title Sen-Kyūhyaku-Nanajū-San-Nen no Pinbōru
Translator Alfred Birnbaum
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Genre Surreal novel
Publisher Kodansha International
Publication date
June 1980
Published in English
September 1985
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 215 pp (US)
207 pp (JP)

ISBN 4-06-186012-7 (US 1st edition)

ISBN 4-06-116862-2 (JP 1st edition)
OCLC 417360370
Preceded by Hear the Wind Sing
Followed by A Wild Sheep Chase

Pinball, 1973 (1973年のピンボール Sen-Kyūhyaku-Nanajū-San-Nen no Pinbōru?) is a novel published in 1980 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The second book in the "Trilogy of the Rat" series, it is preceded by Hear the Wind Sing (1979) and followed by A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), and is the second novel written by Murakami.

All three books in the Trilogy of the Rat have been translated into English, but Pinball, 1973, and Hear The Wind Sing, the first two books in the trilogy, were only printed as English translations in Japan by Kodansha under their Kodansha English Library branding, and both only as A6-sized pocketbooks. Before being reprinted in 2009, these novels were difficult to locate and quite expensive, especially outside of Japan. Murakami is alleged to have said that he does not intend for these novels to be published outside of Japan. Whether or not this is true, both novels are much shorter than those that follow and make up the bulk of his work, and are less evolved stylistically. The title reflects that of the well-known Oe Kenzaburo novel, The Silent Cry, which in the original Japanese is titled Football, First Year of the Man'en Era [1860] (万延元年のフットボール Man'en Gannen no Futtoboru?).

Plot introduction[edit]

Despite being an early work, Pinball shares many elements with Murakami's later novels. It describes itself in the text as "a novel about pinball," but also explores themes of loneliness and companionship, purposelessness, and destiny. As with the other books in the "Trilogy of the Rat" series, three of the characters include the protagonist, a nameless first-person narrator, his friend The Rat, and J, the owner of the bar where they often spend time.

Plot summary[edit]

The plot centers on the narrator's brief but intense obsession with pinball, his life as a freelance translator, and his later efforts to reunite with the old pinball machine that he used to play. He describes living with a pair of identical unnamed female twins, who mysteriously appear in his apartment one morning, and disappear at the end of the book. Interspersed with the narrative are his memories of the Japanese student movement, and of his old girlfriend Naoko, who hanged herself. The plot alternates between describing the life of narrator and that of his friend, The Rat. Many familiar elements from Murakami's later novels are present. Wells, which are mentioned often in Murakami's novels and play a prominent role in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, occur several times in Pinball. There is also a brief discussion of the abuse of a cat, a plot element which recurs elsewhere in Murakami's fiction, especially Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (in which the search for a missing cat is an important plotline). Rain and the sea are also prominent motifs.

Major themes[edit]

Similar to many of Murakami's other novels, the narrator is a detached, unintentionally apathetic character whose deadpan demeanor stands either in union or, more often, starkly in contrast with the attitudes of other characters. The narrative, detached from the tangible world but highly introspective, sets a surreal tone for the novel, in which the narrator seems to find little unusual about such things as living with twins whom he cannot distinguish and whose names he does not know, or performing a funeral for a telephone circuit box. While the novel hints vaguely at supernatural occurrences (which often appear in Murakami's fiction), the plot is not intended to be interpreted allegorically.