Many people have surely wondered over the years about the expression “Norwegian wood”. Is there such an expression? If so, what does it all mean? Where does it come from? Do people in the Nordic Countries actually have an expression or formed concept about what Norwegian wood should be like or is it like expire domains, which no one really seems to know what it is?
In any case, anyone who has come across this expression has probably done so through the homonymous Beatles’ song, as a part of the album Rubber Soul, released in 1965. It is indeed through that song that “Norwegian wood” became a concept, an idea, a match which up until that moment had not yet been lit. In 1987, Haruki Murakami, one of the running candidates for this year’s Nobel Price in Literature, published the novel “ノルウェイの森” (translates as Norwegian Wood in Japanese).
One could but draw a line -a parallel- between these two concepts or ideas that came to life through the wonder of words. On one hand, we have, what at a first glance appears to be a nostalgic song about a boy and a girl hanging out in an almost unfurnished flat. On the other hand, we have a nostalgic novel about a boy in college hanging out with two girls.
Another reading of the concept of Norwegian wood could certainly be sexual. Indeed, John Lennon himself has admitted to the lyrics of the song being based on sexual affairs. Murakami’s novel is also about sexual relationships. One could say without any reservations that lyrics are also a form of poetry and lyricists are poets who deserve as much recognition as other more traditional writers. Many purists might argue against that, but the truth is that traditional forms of expression are no longer the only ones that count. Indeed, times are a changin’ and this year’s Nobel Prize winner in Literature is Bob Dylan.