Delve into Haruki Murakami’s short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, where every page is seeped in vivid emotion, unexpected magic and most of all, the radiant
variety of life.
Murakami is a Japanese writer, and though he originally writes in his native tongue, his works have been translated into fifty different languages, some by his own hand. Many critics have described his novels and short stories as melancholic and surrealist, and these elements are easily observed in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.
Having never read a volume of short stories before, I was a little cautious entering this collection. Development of characters and plot is what most gravitates me to novels, so reading stories that lack these expansive and ongoing elements would be strange. My assumptions were right, but much to my surprise, I loved it!
Each story stands-alone, averaging about twenty pages long, and while none of them are directly connected or interlinked, Murakami’s signature writing style maintains a seamless transition throughout. Though translated texts can often seem clumsy and alienated from the original version, Phillip Gabriel and Jay Rubin nurture harmony between the plot and a unique quality that imbues Murakami’s every word. The magical realism embedded in the stories prevents mundane moments from becoming too laden down and stagnant, and each story has an unexpected twist — whether it be delightful, disheartening, or leaving us wanting more, each one is effective.
walk through the garden of short stories, enjoy everything you see on your way, and surround yourself with Murakami’s magical observation of life.
What struck me most about Murakami’s writing were his distinct characters. I didn’t think I would, but I quite liked the fact that you were only given twenty or so pages to get to know these creations, each word and phrase carefully selected to lift them off the page. From teenagers to homeless men, from waitresses to widowers, the variation of life in these stories is incredibly immersive. Similar to the rising popularity of Brandon Stanton’s snap-shot photography blog ‘Humans of New York’, Murakami demonstrates his capability of using few words and minimalist imagery to intensely connect with people and place.
Murakami writes in the Introduction to Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, ‘If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.’ By all means, walk through the garden of short stories, enjoy everything you see on your way, and surround yourself with Murakami’s magical observation of life.