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Murakami Musings February 13, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.

Only recently have I gotten myself to read Haruki Murakami’s short stories, and it’s been quite a literary experience. I find that it’s not just the tales he has to tell that I appreciate (some more than others) but the subtleties that he injects into his storytelling that engross me.

after the quake (Vintage/Random House)For instance, in after the quake Murakami puts together six short stories inspired by the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The stories have nothing to do with one another apart from the fact that they all take place following the quake. But these are not tales about the calamity nor its aftermath per se. Rather, these are about different people whose lives are shaken in some way and thus search for something missing. It is an interesting allegorical device: an earthquake that shakes a nation, small events that unsettle people, and the need for both to pick up the pieces and seek out some greater meaning.

The Elephant Vanishes (Vintage/Random House)Then there is The Elephant Vanishes, a longer and much more varied anthology. Unlike after the quake, there is no unifying theme that strings this collection together. However, Murakami does employ common storytelling techniques that students of creative writing would do well to emulate. For instance, nearly all of them are stories of individuals telling stories. More, several of them actually involve the same elements: a character who works in a marketing agency, or is a short story writer, or goes by the name of Noboru Watanabe. Indeed, it is almost as if Murakami wrote these stories as an exercise to see how many he could write using components that were somewhat the same and somewhat different, if not to challenge himself then perhaps to get his readers to do a double take.

Literature has never been my strong suit, and it is entirely possible I am reading too much into nothing, if not missing the point completely. But the mere fact that these stories have prompted me to deconstruct them in this way goes to show that Murakami has done right at least by me.



1. Books of 2007 « BRAIN DRAIN - December 31, 2007

[…] after the quake […]

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