The Elephant Vanishes (and other stories) by Haruki Murakami

This was my second shot at something written by Haruki Murakami – the first time, I abandoned Norwegian Wood after four pages, which is why I don’t tell people that I did not finish the book, rather I never started it. I picked up The Elephant Vanishes, against my better judgment, from the library for the Japanese Literature Challenge. I read five stories from the collection, before I gave up the effort. Or, put the book indefinitely on hold. These are the ones I read:

1. The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday’s Women

2. The Second Bakery Attack

3. The Kangaroo Communique

4. The Elephant Vanishes

5. The Silence

You know what the strange thing is? I quit reading because I actually liked the last story. I didn’t want to spoil the effect it had on me with another ‘The Second Bakery Attack’! If I’d only read The Silence, I’d have had a much more favourable impression of Murakami than I have now. The other stories just weren’t for me. I found the writing disconnected and pretentious in its annoyingly stubborn lack of purpose. Why do people love Murakami? Do you? There has to be something I’m missing here. I’ve never got a clear explanation from a fan of what it is, exactly, that I apparently don’t get.

But you know what, I don’t even want to understand. I don’t want to trudge through another slow story, told by another dull narrator, only to reach the most anticlimactic ending in the history of endings. Call me dumb, but I’d rather be dumb than pretend I got something out of this read other than complete boredom and mild confusion. I don’t want to have to try so hard to like something, which is proving so difficult to like. The Silence was a rare gem. Was it worth struggling through the entire book? Not according to me.

4 thoughts on “The Elephant Vanishes (and other stories) by Haruki Murakami”

  1. I can sometimes endure and appreciate what´s slow, dull and plotless, but then the rest would really have to matter very much to me – it would have to be a story that speaks to my soul, or something. In my experience, all such stories are by European writers, usually male (am I queer? don´t think so), and always about ten or twenty years older than I. I think it needs to establish familiar ground, but also promise to push me slightly in some unexpected direction for me to go on with it and trawl it for treasure. There is probably a window of opportunity for enjoying authors like this, I think they speak for a generation and a lifestyle. If Murakami turns out to be a classic, I will be proven wrong, though!


  2. Viktoria Berg – From what I've heard of him, Murakami's writing does seem to resonate with this generation, so you might want to try this! To me the book just seemed out of context; though that could be blamed on the translation. One of the blurbs on my copy calls Murakami the next Kafka, but these stories were more bizarre and irrelevant than Kafkaesque; which is saying something!!


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