THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE (1994-5) is a novel by Haruki Murakami, and received the Japanese Yomiuri Prize in Literature. It was translated into English in 1997.
12/01/09 | Novel

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

by Prathna Lor

I carry my organs in a burlap sack slung around my spine. The smell is an effective lure for insects. Lately, I have tasted the semen of bees—it goes well with the thorax of a beetle. Honey is the obvious choice for sauce. The wingtips can sometimes stab my throat, but the exoskeleton strengthens the beak. I do not understand how humans can so easily discard bone.


I am no longer a hunter of wild rats in buried snow. I am defenseless against wolves, bears, and other humans. I have to take extra precaution. I cannot lie on my backside. I cannot sit vertically against a wall. I cannot scratch my backside. I will no longer know the comfort of a psychiatrist’s chair. I can no longer be flogged with a leather whip. My shoulder blades will never cut garment ever again. I feel let down. I will touch my face with moderate force and feel catastrophe. I want to touch my burlap sack of organs. I want to hold it tight. The esophagus now lies parallel to the back of my neck. I know how to feed myself without looking. I am proud of this feat. I am now equipped with an ‘auto-feed’ setting. This is an involuntary muscle movement that is activated once the body requires nutrition. I must pour soft liquids into the tube if I want to feed myself manually. I haven’t done so in months. I can feed like a mollusk. I have studied the feeding habits of mollusks. I can sit through a stream of wind with the ‘auto-feed’ set to high and let dead insects caught in up drafts find their way onto the ridge of my tongue. I have sold my teeth. I have traded my vocal chords for Schumann’s cello concerto. I can only communicate through a sound devoid of language, of context.


The girl lays her elbows on the windowsill. She thinks I am singing. She makes a comment on the ‘loveliness’ of a bird’s singing. I am not singing. I am choking on the leg of a spider. I would much prefer to choke on air.  How is this pleasant to listen to?


I can stab you with pointy bone, that’s it. My arms are now bones. Featherless. Camel hair lines the length of the arm. I can strike my ribcage, produce a dissonant chord. The ribcage has been reconfigured into a vertical structure. The architecture of my body has been altered. It no longer exists to survive. I can feel a small, clenched fist being inserted into a hole above my rectum that leads directly to my stomach. I can feel the aromatics of herbs, lemon, and garlic spewing their juices all over the mucus lining of the stomach’s wall. I feel a little dirty. Someone is thinking about the idea of masturbating to what is happening to me right now. I can hear my body trying to reproduce itself in the burlap sack. It is trying to convert the burlap sack into skin. It has been abandoned in the forest. A warm bullet still persists, still pushes through a piece of featherless flesh. The atmosphere weakens with color. I can still breathe through a short, thin tube. The length of air is constantly diminishing to an earl grey.