[Review] ふしぎな図書館 by Haruki Murakami

[Review] ふしぎな図書館 by Haruki Murakamiふしぎな図書館 (The Strange Library) by Haruki Murakami
Published by Kodansha on February 8, 2005
Genres: Japanese literature, Magical realism
Pages: 92
The verdict: four-stars
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All 'boku' wanted was to borrow some books.


Against all odds I managed to finish my last book for the Language Freak Summer Challenge! Like planned, I read ふしぎな図書館 (Fushigi na toshokan, “The Strange Library“) by Haruki Murakami.

And I loved it! I won’t spoil the plot, but: All the narrator wanted was to borrow a book from the library, and then it goes odd Murakami-style, including Sheepman and donuts. If you like Murakami and magical realism and general silliness, you’ll enjoy this one. Also the overall tone of the book is quite funny and I found myself chuckling regularly. Despite that, the ending is saaaad 🙁

The Strange Library is illustrated by Maki Sasaki. I bought it at the same time as 羊男のクリスマス (Hitsujiotoko no Kurisumasu, “Sheepman’s Christmas“), which is also illustrated by Sasaki. I absolutely adore these illustrations!

The Strange Library has not yet been translated to English (although I’ve heard rumours.. *cough*ISBN 9781846559211*cough*), but there is a German translation with new illustrations, by Kat Menschik who also illustrated The Bakery Attacks and Sleep. I must admit I am slightly disappointed they didn’t stick with Sasaki’s illustrations, but alas.

As for the Japanese: The Strange Library was a relatively easy read. The book has some unusual words (although not as many as Sheepman’s Christmas) that I had to look up, and both the old man and Sheepman don’t talk standard Japanese, but this wasn’t a problem. One thing I noticed again is that Murakami uses relatively little kanji (Japanese characters), stringing together long parts of just hiragana (Japanese syllabary).
A beautiful example: ぼくはなにかをきっぱりとことわるのがにがてなのだ。
Which actually (approximately) reads as: ぼく・は・なにか・を・きっぱり・と・ことわる・の・が・にがて・な・の・だ。
Or even better: ぼくは何かをきっぱりと断るのが苦手なのだ。
(And translates as “I’m not very good at flatly declining something.”)
Alas. Murakamism.

Fushigi na toshokan Fushigi na toshokan Fushigi na toshokan

After having studied Japanese for four years and having lived in Nagasaki for a year, I’ve mildly neglected the language for 3+ years. But thankfully I was fine reading The Strange Library. I admit it’s really easy Japanese, but I definitely plan to pick up some more difficult books again in the future. Anyway, I’m so glad I read this book because it has got me motivated to finally work on my Japanese again. It’s gotten so rusty after all those years! So I have decided three things:

  1. I will always read a Japanese book alongside whatever other book I’m reading (at least for the upcoming year). It’s fine if it takes a long time to finish.
  2. I am going to retake the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level N2 in December. I actually got N2 in 2010 back when I was living in Nagasaki but I’ve forgotten a lot.
  3. Then when I’ve done N2 in December, I am going to aim for N1 next summer /ambitious

3 Comments

  1. Congratulations on finishing the challenge! I’m really glad you feel more motivated to work on your Japanese now, it means the challenge works!!! 🙂

    I like the pictures in the book, and it’s interesting to see how a page in Japanese looks like – all vertical! The hieroglyphs seem so difficult, I admire how you’ve managed to learn them all! 🙂

    I wish you a good luck with your test and further Japanese reading!
    Ekaterina recently posted… Perceval by Chrétien de Troyes (Review)My Profile

    • Thank you! And thank you so much for hosting the challenge, I really enjoyed it 🙂 And I definitely got something good out of it (the motivation to work on my Japanese again)!

      Japanese books are either written from the top right to bottom left corner (and they start at the ‘back’), or they are in the western direction (left to right) 🙂 The characters can be a real pain *shakes fist at Japanese* I definitely don’t know them all! But sometimes there are little floating syllables next to them (called ‘furigana’) to help you understand the way it is read.

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