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cover of English-language edition
Sen-Kyūhyaku-Nanajū-San-Nen no Pinbōru|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
215 pp (US)|
207 pp (JP)
4-06-186012-7 (US 1st edition)
|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 pocket editions. Before being reprinted in 2009, these novels were difficult to locate and quite expensive, especially outside Japan. Murakami is alleged to have said that he did not intend these novels to be published outside 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  (万延元年のフットボール Man'en Gannen no Futtoboru).
An omnibus English edition of Murakami's first two novels (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973), under the title Wind/Pinball, with translations by Prof. Ted Goossen of York University, was released in the United States in August, 2015.
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.
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.
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Similar to many of Murakami's other novels, the narrator is a detached, 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 and 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. The novel also hints vaguely at supernatural occurrences (which often appear in Murakami's fiction).