Dark Wonderland: a gander into Murakami’s world
Book Review: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
I picked up the UK edition of Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library in a bookstore last year. Its ambiguous cover immediately drew me in; I had heard of Murakami before, but never actually read him. Interested, I skimmed the first few pages to get a taste of what was in store. I ended up reading the whole thing in a 30-45 minute sitting.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I expected from The Strange Library. People had told me that Murakami had an unorthodox manner of writing and quite a unique literary voice. What no one could have prepared me for, however, was the extent of his uniqueness.
Murakami seems to live on the fine line in-between the real and the imaginary; he appears to skirt the edges of a dystopian wonderland on a daily basis. It shows in interviews and especially in his writing. A book about a boy visiting his local library hardly sounds worth picking up, but when the library turns out to have a labyrinth for a basement, things get more interesting.
Murakami artfully manages to tell the tale in the point of view of a boy whose name we never know. Despite the anonymity of the protagonist, the lack of a name never seems forced. In fact, I realized only when I finished the book that the boy never revealed his name. The abnormality of the storytelling is further enhanced by increasingly odd characters: a man in a sheep costume who “[converses] in undertones with the spiders who built their webs along the ceiling,” a girl who speaks with her hands and seems so delicate it’s as if she were made of glass, and an old librarian with black spots across his face which “[dance] with rage” whenever he is angered. It is a book written in such a manner that it is not fully discernible whether any of it ever actually happened to the protagonist. It is the type of book that lingers on the edge of memory, pulling at the strings of consciousness.
The Strange Library may not appeal to those who favor more realistic settings; it is, as the name suggests, a strange read. Despite this, lovers of fiction should pay attention to Murakami’s every move; his stories are outlandish, dark, secretive, and wholly captivating. His fiction feels as if we’re reading something we should not be reading, which adds a whole new level to the intimacy of his work. Murakami’s soul is displayed in his novels, as abstract as it may be, and in a darkly breathtaking manner, it shows.
You can find Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library at Amazon.com.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Iskandar Haggarty is a writer of poetry and prose alike. His work has been featured in Inktrap Magazine and the Micro Bookends MB1.38 contest. He is weary of elves and loves strange fiction. Follow him on twitter at @iskyhaggarty36