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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories

4.1 23
by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator), Philip Gabriel (Translator)

From the bestselling author of Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle comes this superb collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive,


From the bestselling author of Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle comes this superb collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining.

Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami’s characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be closest of all.

Editorial Reviews

Beautiful, ephemeral, and profoundly weird, the short stories in this collection by internationally acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami are nearly impossible to describe. Characters move through thoroughly contemporary settings (high-rise apartments, holiday resorts, etc.) in a sort of fever dream, haunted by ghosts and spirits of the past. Including 24 tales, each one more surreal than the one before, this follow-up to Kafka on the Shore includes all the strange events, bizarre epiphanies, and mystifying twists and turns we have come to expect from Murakami.
Publishers Weekly
One of my favorite Haruki Murakami stories is "The Elephant Vanishes"-part of an earlier collection published in 1991-in which the narrator watches as an elephant in a zoo grows smaller and smaller until finally the elephant disappears. No explanation is given, there is no resolution, the vanished elephant remains a mystery at the same time that the narrator's life is changed forever. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami's new collection of 25 stories, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker and other publications, also describes these epiphanic instances. In the title story, a character who is half deaf, alludes to a John Ford movie, Fort Apache, in which John Wayne tells the newly arrived colonel that if he actually saw some Indians on his way to the fort that means there weren't any. Everything is a bit off-including of course the blind willow trees whose pollen carry flies that burrow inside a sleeping woman's ears-as in a dream, where explanations are always lacking but where interpretations are plentiful. In "Mirror," the narrator sees someone who appears to be both himself and not himself in a mirror and then finds out the mirror does not exist; the disaffected woman-a lot of Murakami's characters are handicapped or incapacitated in some physical way-in "The Shinagawa Monkey," loses her own name; in "Man-Eating Cats," the narrator's girlfriend disappears and as he searches for her finds that "with each step I took, I felt myself sinking deeper into a quicksand where my identity vanished." Murakami's stories are difficult to describe and one should, I think, resist attempts to overanalyze them. Their beauty lies in their ephemeral and incantatory qualities and in his uncanny ability to tap into a sort of collective unconscious. In addition, a part of Murakami's genius is that he uses images as plot points, going from image to image, like in the marvelous story "Airplane," where, while making love, the narrator imagines strings hanging from the ceiling and how each one might open up a different possibility-good and bad. It is clear that Murakami is well acquainted with the teachings of Buddhism, western philosophies, Jungian theory; he has a deep knowledge of music and, also, I have been told, is a dedicated, strong swimmer. In his stories, he roams freely and convincingly through all these elements (and no doubt many more) without differentiating to create a world where cats talk and elephants disappear. In the introduction to this collection, Murakami writes how, for him, writing a novel is a challenge and how writing short stories is a joy-these stories are a joy for his readers as well. Lily Tuck's most recent novel, The News from Paraguay, won the 2004 National Book Award. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Murakami (Kafka on the Shore) is currently the West's most popular Japanese author, and each story in his new collection bears his imprimatur, a matter-of-fact style combined with plausible but surreal premises to produce a dizzying adventure. People lose themselves in mirrors; talking monkeys steal people's names until a clever psychologist solves the problem; a mother loses her only son to a shark attack in Hawaii and then travels to the site of the accident for a vacation every year, where surfers there are able to see his ghost. In the "Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes," Murakami skewers the staid literary establishment, whose members he caricatures as fat, blind crows, unwilling to try anything new. Magical animals and the power of natural disasters sweep through his characters' lives, transforming what came before. Yet people seem to survive, either numbed or strengthened by their ordeals. The wonderful weirdness of his vision and his unique voice are difficult to describe. They must be experienced. Recommended for all but the smallest libraries.-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Unrequited or lost love, unrealized dreams and bizarre experiences that unfold into deeper mysteries, in 25 stories drawn from the prominent Japanese writer's entire career. A handful seem too thinly developed to make an impression: memories of high school and youth heightened by a pop song's imagery ("The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema"); a satire on rampant commercialism and consumer gullibility ("The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes"); an obsessive daily routine through which a lonely bachelor avoids "getting caught up in other people's messes" ("The Year of Spaghetti"). But more often than not, Murakami's matchless gift for making the unconventional and even the surreal inviting and gratifying creates hard little narrative gems. In the beautiful title story, a young man's paternalistic relationship with his ingenuous cousin (who has sustained permanent hearing loss) becomes the avenue to a more intense awareness of both others' sufferings and his own alienated state. A nightwatchman sees his doppelganger in "The Mirror" (which isn't there, as he very well knows), and understands that he has somehow failed or antagonized his essential self. The vacationing narrator of "Hunting Knife" experiences several odd encounters at a tourist hotel, climaxing in a conversation with a wheelchair-bound young man whose possession of the title object amounts to a silent, secret rebellion against his fate. Successive images of loss or regret or alienation are dramatized in brisk sentences that decline to offer rational explanations, yet tease us with the manifold implications of things left unsaid. Murakami's well-known love of American jazz and nostalgic fascination with the 1960s sound recurring themes,and he's often present, under his own name or as "the writer." These techniques work to perfection in a virtuosic exploration of the phenomenon of coincidence ("Chance Traveler") and a searching Kafkaesque parable about disappearance, loss and coping ("Where I'm Likely to Find It"). A superlative display of a great writer's wares. Absolutely essential. First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher
"A warning to new readers of Haruki Murakami: You will become addicted. . . . His newest collection is as enigmatic and sublime as ever." —San Francisco Chronicle“Whimsical, magical, daring or sometimes played with the mute in the bell of the trumpet. . . . The best of these linger far beyond the reading of them.” —Chicago Tribune“Murakami’s writing perfectly captures the way surreal, even seemingly supernatural, encounters can subtly alter the terrain of everyday life.” —Washington Post Book World“This collection shows Murakami at his dynamic, organic best. . . . In Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami demonstrates brilliantly the perils of trying to squeeze life into prefabricated compartments.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

By Haruki Murakami


Copyright © 2006 Haruki Murakami
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4000-4461-8

Chapter One

When I closed my eyes, the scent of the wind wafted up toward me. A May wind, swelling up like a piece of fruit, with a rough outer skin, slimy flesh, dozens of seeds. The flesh split open in midair, spraying seeds like gentle buckshot into the bare skin of my arms, leaving behind a faint trace of pain.

"What time is it?" my cousin asked me. About eight inches shorter than me, he had to look up when he talked.

I glanced at my watch. "Ten twenty."

"Does that watch tell good time?"

"Yeah, I think so."

My cousin grabbed my wrist to look at the watch. His slim, smooth fingers were surprisingly strong. "Did it cost a lot?"

"No, it's pretty cheap," I said, glancing again at the timetable.

No response.

My cousin looked confused. The white teeth between his parted lips looked like bones that had atrophied.

"It's pretty cheap," I said, looking right at him, carefully repeating the words. "It's pretty cheap, but it keeps good time."

My cousin nodded silently.

My cousin can't hear well out of his right ear. Soon after he went into elementary school he was hit by a baseball and it screwed up his hearing. That doesn't keep him from functioning normally most of the time. He attends a regular school, leads an entirely normal life. Inhis classroom, he always sits in the front row, on the right, so he can keep his left ear toward the teacher. And his grades aren't so bad. The thing is, though, he goes through periods when he can hear sounds pretty well, and periods when he can't. It's cyclical, like the tides. And sometimes, maybe twice a year, he can barely hear anything out of either ear. It's like the silence in his right ear deepens to the point where it crushes out any sound on the left side. When that happens, ordinary life goes out the window and he has to take some time off from school. The doctors are basically stumped. They've never seen a case like it, so there's nothing they can do.

"Just because a watch is expensive doesn't mean it's accurate," my cousin said, as if trying to convince himself. "I used to have a pretty expensive watch, but it was always off. I got it when I started junior high, but I lost it a year later. Since then I've gone without a watch. They won't buy me a new one."

"Must be tough to get along without one," I said.

"What?" he asked.

"Isn't it hard to get along without a watch?" I repeated, looking right at him.

"No, it isn't," he replied, shaking his head. "It's not like I'm living off in the mountains or something. If I want to know the time I just ask somebody."

"True enough," I said.

We were silent again for a while.

I knew I should say something more, try to be kind to him, try to make him relax a little until we arrived at the hospital. But it had been five years since I saw him last. In the meanwhile he'd grown from nine to fourteen, and I'd gone from twenty to twenty-five. And that span of time had created a translucent barrier between us that was hard to traverse. Even when I had to say something, the right words just wouldn't come out. And every time I hesitated, every time I swallowed back something I was about to say, my cousin looked at me with a slightly confused look on his face. His left ear tilted ever so slightly toward me.

"What time is it now?" he asked me.

"Ten twenty-nine," I replied.

It was ten thirty-two when the bus finally rolled into view.

Excerpted from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami Copyright © 2006 by Haruki Murakami. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Murakami's stories are difficult to describe.... Their beauty lies in their ephemeral and incantatory qualities and in his uncanny ability to tap into a sort of collective unconscious.... These stories are a joy." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe.

Brief Biography

Tokyo, Japan
Date of Birth:
January 12, 1949
Place of Birth:
Kyoto, Japan
Waseda University, 1973

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