This research aims to examine the intersection of queerness and the metaphysical in Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart. I intend to accomplish this by focusing on the instances of magical realism as they are presented throughout the narrative and deconstruct them through the escapades of the explicitly queer protagonist Sumire. Sumire is an individual who has never felt sexual desire until she encounters an older woman named Miu. However, Miu underwent a bizarre, fantastical encounter many years ago that “split her in two” as the text puts it, and her ability to feel sexual desire joined her other half on the “other side” (Murakami 157). So, when Sumire inevitably makes an advance on Miu and Miu explains this issue to her, Sumire vanishes, “like smoke,” the following day (Murakami 93). In my research, I will attribute Sumire’s disappearance to an escape from compulsory heterosexuality, a concept that is largely at play throughout the events of the novel. I will also explore the unconscious by analyzing the role that dreams portray in the narrative, and how they aid in gratifying Sumire’s yearning to embrace her queerness wholly and unapologetically with the woman of whom she is enamored.
From the very beginning of the novel, the narrator describes Sumire as unceremonious, headstrong, stubborn, impulsive, and uncompromisingly candid. She wears an oversized coat and work boots, she’s a heavy smoker, and she doesn’t wear bras or makeup, according to the narrator. She is anything but a proper stereotypical lady, and never felt compelled to adhere to gender norms. However, in terms of Rich’s theory of compulsory heterosexuality, Sumire is undeniably afflicted. I will support this claim by examining the fact that Sumire equates her inability to feel sexual desire for men with an inability to experience sexual desire in general; that is, until she meets Miu and begins grappling with an uncharted array of feelings and urges. It is worth noting that Sumire jumps to the conclusion that her sex drive is broken before even considering that she could be a lesbian, and this mentality is attributed to compulsory heterosexuality. Additionally, I plan to hypothesize that Sumire’s disappearance occurs so she can have a relationship with Miu on the other side; that is, an absolute, rounded, sexual relationship at its full potential.
In order to support my interpretation of the magical realism aspects of the narrative, I feel it would be useful to reference certain scientific theories that offer an explanation for the inexplicable. Since this novel largely engages with alternate realities, I will reference Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance to make sense of Miu’s splitting in two, Sumire’s disappearance, and the open-ended conclusion of the novel. I will also reference Schrödinger’s Cat and discuss how it correlates to my interpretation of the ending; that is, the prospect that multiple endings can be true simultaneously. Moreover, I will investigate the ways in which music contributes to the fantastical elements of the narrative, as its role in the story is almost sentient. Examples of this claim lie in Sumire and Miu’s mutual appreciation of classical music, Miu’s inability to play piano following the death of her father, and, most notably, Sumire’s encounter with the music she heard immediately before disappearing, which could imply that music functions as the bridge between the physical world and the metaphysical world Sumire crossed over to. To support this notion, I will reference a study on the correlation between music and altered states of consciousness. My ultimate conclusion is that Sumire and Miu are existing happily together on the other side, and this research intends to establish a compelling argument for this claim.
"Pursuit of Happiness in Alternate Realities: The Intersection of Queerness and the Metaphysical in Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart,"
Kean Quest: Vol. 4:
2, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.kean.edu/keanquest/vol4/iss2/5