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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"The Strange Library" by Haruki Murakami

"The Strange Library" by Haruki Murakami is one of those little books that borders between short-story, novella or something else, and is, most of all, indicative of Murakami's vast genius.  The slim volume reminds me of "Pinball 1973" and "Hear the Wind Sing," both of which I have in the original Kodansha English editions (now collectors' items, Amazon.com lists Pinball 1973 at $249).  Recently, I read a report about "Pinball 1973" being "retranslated" and publish vastly by his new publishers.  I am sure those who enjoyed Murakami's most recent surrealist fiction (1Q84) will love both of these early works.

"The Strange Library" is surrealist to the max.  I have described Murakami's surrealist style as sort of walking into a Salvador Dali painting, and nothing proves that point more clearly than this story.  A young man is bamboozled into the cavernous bowels of a library in Tokyo by a shady old man.  There is nothing much menacing about the old man other than his ability to dispense guilt in order to get others to do his bidding.  The young man suffers imprisonment but the narrative is cast between the borders of some dream-like state and realism and his concern for his worrying mother (not making it back home for dinner time, etc.) dissipates in the face of unpredictable actions in the plot.  There are few characters but those that are there echo back to Murakami's early surrealism.  There is a sheep man, and a young lady of incomparable beauty, and both help the young man escape.

Once the plot begins to sail under the eyes of the reader, the story ends.  I am certain it was designed in such way.  The illustrations are excellent and the typeset is Typewriter and enlarged to the point where it almost feels like a children's book.  I don't think this was done with any intention of creating a novella out of a short story to turn into book form, but the enterprise almost feels like a tease to something larger... perhaps we can expect a 800 page novel some time this year?  We can only pray and hope.

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At 9:51 AM, Blogger Bleets said...

I tend to think that Chip Kidd's design of The Strange Library 'package' is a near perfect marriage of text, story and graphic design. I expect he consulted with Murakami, who do doubt suggested Kidd's name from the fine job he did with 1Q84. That said, while liking The Strange Library very much I did find the 'package' a clumsy handful while reading.


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