Japanese · Japanese Literature · library · Literary Fiction · Magical realism · review · Review Copy · Short Stories

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: A Review


Paperback, 96 pages
Published December 2nd 2014 by Knopf
Source: Publisher

Haruki Murakami’s short story/novella The Strange Library is reflective of his style and full of the strange and weird convolutions of the imagination. The plot is pretty simple: a high-school aged boy visits a library in order to look up information about the Turkish tax system. He is sent to the basement to meet the librarian who will help him get the book but the librarian traps him in a small room, commanding him to memorize the book the kid requested. He is visited by strange and fascinating people during his stay there.

The book is as strange as the title suggests. It is written very simply (though whether that is true in the original, I am not sure, the translation may have robbed us of the complexities and wordplay apparent in its original Japanese). The story is deceptively simple and one can either take it at face value or search for further meaning, conducting a detailed in-depth analysis of the characters and symbols. The most provoking bit of this short story is the end where in a moment of retrospection, the protagonist of the piece wonders about the meaning of alone-ness.

I enjoyed this short story a whole lot more than I have enjoyed Murakami’s past two books. I suppose style and writing are bound to change with age (as he speaks of frequently in his nonfiction What I Talk About When I’m Running which is what I’m currently reading) but as a reader, I think I definitely prefer his earlier works than his more recent ones. This one is absurd in the best way and most unexpectedly profound. Recommended.


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