From internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami—a fantastical illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library.
A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. – Goodreads
I haven’t read any Murakami before, though I’ve started a couple and have Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki sitting in my TBR pile. So I was pretty excited to give this a try.
The first thing I noticed, of course, is the cover. The back cover extends into two vertical pieces that fold around the pages and tuck into one another in front of the cover. It’s a unique design – and just the beginning. Once you get into the book, you discover that it’s full of inscrutable images, interspersed with text in a large, courier font.
It’s not a long book – barely even novella-length. And it’s…. well, strange.
The story begins with a young man returning some books to the library and telling the check-in librarian that he’s looking for something else to read. She points him towards the basement of the library, much to his surprise – he didn’t even know the library had a basement.
And it just gets stranger from there. The boy is given books to read on Ottoman Empire taxation, then taken captive. His companions are a man dressed like a sheep, and a young girl who may or may not exist.
I don’t want to say much more, since being a short book, anything else would be a major spoiler. So instead, I’ll just say that I was not at all prepared for this book. It’s magical realism bordering on the paranormal and its less than linear structure leaves much room for interpretation. Was the story a dream? A drug-induced fantasy? Part reality interpreted by a traumatized mind?
Though short, the story is packed full of vivid imagery. I also enjoyed how the language danced between formal and coloquial. There were a couple of awkward sentences that left me wondering if they were the product of translation or intentional. Overall, I really enjoyed Murakami’s style and original imagination.
Many things came to mind as I read – the story of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, Sophie Divry’s short book about a librarian who finds a patron who has been locked in her library overnight and proceeds to talk his ear off, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude – even Kafka’s Metamorphosis. To say that Murakami’s writing is evocative is an understatement.
If you enjoy creative exploration, short fiction or are a fan of Murakami’s work, definitely check this book out. It’s a quick read, and one that you can easily polish off if you’ve got an hour to spare. If you’re one of those lucky bilingual folks out there who speaks Japanese and read this in the original, I’d love to hear if you found the translation accurate or if it was better pre-translation!
**Thanks to Random House of Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Author: Haruki Murakami
Published By: Knopf
Released: December 2, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Experimental, Novella
Date Read: December 7, 2014