A Rare Treat for Murakami Fans: Pinball, 1973

May 17, 2007 | 6 books mentioned 8

If you need to get your Murakami fix, but can’t stomach the idea of picking up After Dark, here’s your solution.

Written in 1980, Pinball, 1973 was Murakmai’s second novel. It was published by Kodansha and has been out of print for several years, although it’s available at Amazon for a whopping $225.

The book is part of the “Trilogy of the Rat” (actually four books), which begins with Murakami’s first book, Hear the Wind Sing and includes A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance (probably my favorite of his books). Apparently, Murakami refuses to allow either Hear the Wind Sing or Pinball, 1973 to be published outside of Japan, which is ironic, considering both of them are, in my opinion, far superior to either Sputnik Sweetheart or After Dark. This translation, linked below, along with Hear the Wind Sing, was done by Alfred Birnbaum for Japanese readers trying to learn English.

The story is classic Murakami, before that became a bad thing. A rootless man who loves Dostoevsky spends his days looking for a hard to find part for a classic pinball machine. Mysterious twins move into his apartment. There’s a well and a cat. While it’s no masterpiece, it’s a good read for Murakami fans and those looking for a place to get started with his oeuvre.

Here’s a link to a PDF of Birnbaum’s translation of Murakami’s Pinball, 1973.

Bonus link: Some fan-translated short stories I stumbled on while researching this.

Update 9/17: The link to the PDF has been fixed.

Update 3/8/09: The link to the PDF has been fixed again!

is a Washington correspondent for the Japanese news service Kyodo News. He writes on US-Japan relations, reporting from the White House and the Pentagon. In his spare time, he works as a translator. He is currently writing a police noir set in Japan. Follow him on Twitter @benjamindooley.


  1. The link isn't working, and I really would love to read this. Would you mind updating it for us?

  2. Thanks so much. I just finished reading my translated pocket edition of Hear the Wind Sing!

    Also, I emailed Random House to ask about when 1Q84 would be released and they actually responded right away saying approx. Fall 2011. Bummer that it’s so far off but pretty cool that they responded with a real answer.

  3. Why is it a bad thing….The story is classic Murakami, before that became a bad thing. I dont understand….hemingway can write the same war stories and it not become a bad thing. Cormack mccarthy aside, haruki murakami is the greatest living writer.

  4. Apparently the Birnbaum translation of Pinball is now back in print in Japan, which means it should be as inexpensive as Hear the Wind Sing pretty soon.

    I love Birnbaum’s translations, incidentally. He’s got a great ear for English.

  5. Actually, the Trilogy of the Rat is: Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase. Although Dance, Dance, Dance continues the story, it is not considered a Rat story.

  6. The link isn’t working again. Anyone know where I can find a full-length PDF? The others I have found are only 74 pages and the work is supposed to be much longer than that.

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