It was a Wednesday, and the light around me intimated childhood, its soft rays falling like whispers of eiderdown.
I’d been wandering around the gorgeous Himalayan village of Manali, northern India, when I came across a book shop. Being an illustriously beautiful day, I thought ‘Hey, why not get something to read’? A chime rang off when I entered the shelved space, the orderliness around me so overwhelming I didn’t notice the proprietor sat behind the cash register. I went to a corner of the shop and perused its wares, I long having held the belief the most wondrous of things lay nestled in at ninety-degree angles.
Most titles read as a blur until I reached The Wild Sheep Chase. I knew the author’s name – Haruki Murakami – but had never read any of his books. I plucked the article and studied its cover, its minimalism quite striking. Handling it then made it seem it’d been crafted for me, so I took it and went to pay.
The proprietor smiled before repeating the cover-listed price. I handed him the money and he counted it slowly. He then asked, “Why did you choose this book?” Struck by an oddness to his tone, I replied, “It called out to me.”
I left Andajar at dusk, three hours having passed since I entered the book shop. That we’d discussed had charted multiverses, this a phenomenon I often encountered in India. Before I left, he and I shared a joyous, tearful embrace, this a natural conclusion to the parcel of life we’d shared together. “Wow,” I thought upon leaving that small-yet-immense portal. “This book sure must be something!”
I returned to my guesthouse and got reading. The Wild Sheep stole me at once, Murakami’s ability to craft loss-as-poetry somehow so… personal. I totally forgot about dinner that evening, and read through to the wee hours. I got going again at sunrise, and come dusk that evening I’d forged a spiritual relationship with the Japanese author.
As a work-of-fiction (and an extended metaphor), The Wild Sheep Chase is on another level. Its prose is exquisite, its story enchanting, and it leaves you with a feeling of oddball humanity I’ve rarely encountered in my reading experience. In fact, it set off a chime in me that said I too needed to pursue my literary ambitions – that not doing so would be an existential disservice.
Subsequently, I’ve written three books, one of which is published while the others wait in the wings. Yes, something switched that fateful day while wandering around Manali with a huge grin on my face. I wish I could see Andajar again, tell him of all that’s transpired since our encounter nine years ago. It’s possible that he’s still there, but to attempt a reunion right now would be akin to my own wild sheep chase. Instead I’ll just sit here at my computer and thank the forces that have weaved this reality, The Wild Sheep Chase having sowed in me the understanding that everything, always, will be just fine.
Rating (as fiction): 9/10… (as an alchemical agent): 10/10