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[Review] ふしぎな図書館 by Haruki Murakami

[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

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
[Review] Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pelgrimage, and the Murakami Festival

[Review] Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pelgrimage, and the Murakami Festival

[Review] Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pelgrimage, and the Murakami FestivalDe kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pelgrimage) by Haruki Murakami
Published by Atlas Contact on January 2014
Genres: Japanese literature
Pages: 364
Buy on Amazon

Out of the blue and without saying why, Tsukuru Tazaki's closest childhood friends tell him he is no longer welcome in their group.

It’s already been two weeks since the Murakami Festival took place in Amsterdam to celebrate the release of the Dutch translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The book was published officially on January 10th, but participants to the festival received the book more than a month before.

The book is about Tsukuru Tazaki who, shortly after he moved away from his hometown to go to university in Tokyo, was told by his group of friends that they never want to see him again. Then Tsukuru, at age 36, meets a woman he maybe, possibly, wants to spend the rest of his life with. She tells him he has to overcome his trauma of being abandoned by his group of friends.

Colorless Tsukuru TazakiI have a hard time making up my mind on this book. I really love Murakami’s works, for several reasons. I love the ‘magical-realism’, not knowing what is going to happen and whether everything gets resolved by the end or not. I love how it feels like Murakami is always ‘writing the same book’, how characters reappear and all his works are intertwined, whether intentional or not. I love how his books touch me and I love how I am unable to explain how they touch me.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is different. It lacks magical-realism, although at some points in the book I had some hope we might see some. In this sense, the book is closer to Norwegian Wood than to his other works. The book definitely touched me with its theme of friendship and loneliness, in a way I haven’t experienced with any of Murakami’s other works.

However, some time has passed since I finished the book, and the more time passes, the more bland I think the book is. Not a good sign. Definitely not one of my favourite books.

Murakami Festival
We received the book a month early so we could prepare for the festival, where we discussed the book. The festival took place in 15 different locations at the same time, with one ‘book club’ of 150 people and the other ones smaller, 25-30 people. I must say this festival was a really fun experience! I picked one of the smaller book clubs to join and was lucky enough to end up discussing the book at the Cat Cabinet, an art museum dedicated to depicting cats. Couldn’t pick a better place to discuss a Murakami book!

Photo © Maartje Strijbis
Photo © Maartje Strijbis

The festival was attended both by long-time/die-hard Murakami fans as well as people who had never read a book of his before Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and anyone in between.

Some interesting theories on the new book (spoilers!):

Read More Read More

Murakami’s new novel

Murakami’s new novel

Look what arrived at my doorstep one week ago (and with Sinterklaas, even):

It’s Murakami’s new novel, De Kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en Zijn Pelgrimsjaren! (Or in English ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’) Along with a bag, aw yeah!

Halfway November I first read about the Murakami Festival that will be held in Amsterdam on January 11th. Participants received the book more than a month ahead of everyone else. Organised by the publisher and the literary magazin Das Mag, the festival will consist of book clubs that take place in 15 different locations in Amsterdam (and another location in Rotterdam) at the same time. I’m extremely lucky and get to discuss the book at the Cat Cabinet. Honestly I can’t think of a more perfect location to discuss a Murakami novel!

Yesterday I finished Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a novel that I had been looking forward to reading for a long time but just kept putting off, just like Kafka on the Shore earlier this year. TWUBC just blew me away. I really need time to digest before I can say anything sensible about it, but I do enjoy reading theories about the book online.

Anyway, today I finally started in Colorless Tsuruku Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage:

I’m marking for bits that stand out in the story, parts that touch me personally, and typical Murakami-isms. So far (I’m only about 80 pages in) this is definitely one of the novels that touches me on a more emotional level…

[Review] The Bakery Attacks, by Haruki Murakami

[Review] The Bakery Attacks, by Haruki Murakami

[Review] The Bakery Attacks, by Haruki MurakamiDe Broodjesroofverhalen by Haruki Murakami
Published by Atlas Contact on November 2012
Genres: Japanese literature
Pages: 80

'The Bakery Attacks' (English title) is a short story of two friends who head out to the nearest bakery to satisfy their hunger - no matter the consequences.

Happy 64th birthday to Haruki Murakami! That this year may be the year he finally wins that Nobel Prize in Literature (average age of the winners is 64) 😉

In honour of his birthday I read De broodjesroofverhalen, a little book compiling the two short ‘bakery attack’ stories. It was published in Dutch in November 2012 with illustrations by Kat Menschik (she also illustrated Sleep). Part of it already appeared as the short story The Second Bakery Attack in The Elephant Vanishes… and surprisingly it seems the English translation was originally published in Playboy, hah!

Anyway, the book is short, and although the story is perhaps nothing special I can’t help but love it. Two friends are so hungry they decide to rob a bakery, but despite leaving with full stomachs and bread, the robbery has ‘failed’. And this has consequences..! With Menschik’s illustrations this is a fun little book to have.

De broodjesroofverhalen

On another Murakami related note: Random House has released a Murakami Diary app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It’s a fun little app with Murakami facts and some exclusive short stories! Best of all, the app synchronises with the iCal your device, which also makes it functional. I must say I really like it and the design is excellent as well.
(Admittedly I wish they (or anyone) would also publish a 2013 paper Murakami diary again this year!)

Christmas Reads

Christmas Reads

Firstly: Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate!) everyone!

I don’t usually read holiday-appropriate books, but this year I have two perfect books for Christmas!

Christmas Reads

They are Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and Haruki Murakami’s 羊男のクリスマス (‘The Sheep Man’s Christmas’).

A good Agatha Christie murder mystery is always welcome, of course. This specific book we picked as our Christmas Read with my book club Sparrow & Nightingale. I just finished it (within a day, courtesy of the free time Christmas offers) and loved it. The story takes place during Christmas – specifically from December 22 until 28 – with a family coming together to celebrate the holidays. But of course there’s more to the situation than that..!

The second book I picked up in Japan last month. I’m a big Murakami fan and want to read as much of his as possible. Not everything (actually, most isn’t) is translated so during my trip I specifically looked for some of his untranslated fiction to read in Japanese. I stuck with illustrated works, because who can resist those really? One of them was ‘The Sheep Man’s Christmas’. Sheep Man is a character from a bunch of Murakami’s other works, A Wild Sheep Chase being the most famous. I found a translation of The Sheep Man’s Christmas here (sadly without Maki Sasaki’s lovely illustrations). I’m saving the book for Christmas day tomorrow!

Are you reading holiday/Christmas related books this year?