Japanese Literature
Murakami Haruki

    During the past 15 years, a number of Murakami's novels have been translated. The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe his work is "unusual". There is no other way of speaking of Norwegian Wood, the story of a young man trying to find himself. He goes to meet one girl who has gone into a sanatorium to receive psychiatric care. Another lady friend is very independent, yet lonely. The reader is lead on through different waves of consciousness and memories, that go on to nowhere in particular. Considering the subtlety of Kawabata, or the clever locution of Akutagawa, and the blandness of Soseki, Murakami seems outrageous, blasphemous even! It took a while before I read another.
   The Wild Sheep Chase keeps the wool over the reader's eyes in just the same way as the author makes the main character fail to see what is highlighted at the end. A man in sheep's clothing? A ghost in man's clothing? More accustomed to Murkami's style, I was lead on again aimlessly, through the long corridors of the character's mind. Nothing is predictable in Murakami's works. An "important" meeting may have nothing to do with the plot, while an "insignificant" box of matches may change the whole flow of the story!

   Unlike the former two, which are in English, translated by Alfred Bimbaum, Hotaru and other stories has not been translated as yet. The book is made up of seven short stories, the last three of which are grouped together as "German Fantasy". "Hotaru" ("Firefly") is typical of Murakami -- a story that leads on to an indistinguishable end. The story tells of a juvenile romance between two who grieve over the suicide of their friend and lover. At the close of the story, the girl has left to convalesce in a country sanatorium, while the boy climbs the water tower and lets free a firefly that another boarder had caught for them. The symbolism, the triste, the meandering of inner feelings, all engulf the reader with such intensity that you feel lost, worn, spent after just these 40 odd pages.
   The second story, "Burning the Shed", is just as intriguing as it is shocking. Booze, drugs, a flippant woman who disappears, and a hooligan who likes to set fire to old sheds just to see them burn. ...But only old disused sheds! With the gauthorh character, the reader is left wondering... So which one did he burn down?
    Murakami Radio is made up of fifty tiny stories, a collection of articles written for the pop magazine anan between March 2000 and March 2001. Drawings (by Ohashi Ayumi) included, each episode covers only 4 pages. Not only are they easy reading, but they also show a side of the author up until now unseen.         more coming soon. LINKS:
  Murakami Haruki for English Readers 
  Works of Murakami Haruki  (in English)
  Murakami Haruki Fan Club  (in Japanese)

  Ariyoshi Sawako 
  Miyazawa Kenji 
  The Nakasendo 
  Mark Twain 
  Native American Mythology 

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