Saturday, June 19, 2010

THE ELEPHANT VANISHES

BY HARUKI MURAKAMI

ele 1

This book is a collection of short stories, starting with The Wind-up Bird & Tuesday's Women & finishing with the title story, The Elephant Vanishes. On turning the page to the first tale, I had that strange yet familiar feeling that a Murakami character must experience, a sense of the unknown mixed with an undercurrent of deja vu. First there was the title, then reading further, the understanding that I had read this before, that it was the opening to probably his best  known work, The Windup Bird Chronicles.
His stories deal with dissatisfaction with a heavily mechanised consumer driven society, people are disorientated, out of balance with what they perceive their lives should be, they are haunted by a lack of equilibrium & an aching sense of some loss. There's the sense of something dead in the  relationship of the couple in the 1st tale, the overwhelming hunger of the pair in the 2nd, which results in them robbing a McDonalds for burgers. In The Sleep, a housewife hasn’t slept for 17 days & doesn’t tell a soul, she spends this time reading books & at some point sees her mother in law in the sleeping face of her husband, realising how far apart they’ve drifted, & in the title story the narrator has an obsession over an elephant & its subsequent vanishing, to the extent he has a scrapbook on the subject & even where there's a possible love interest he cannot leave the subject alone even when there's no interest from this other party.

 ele 2

   Murakami creates these worlds that, just below the surface, just outside the corner of your eye lays another version of reality, not an alternate version, more like boxes within boxes. These are modern fairytales, where instead of being lost in some ancient woodland, where your trail of crumbs home have been eaten, the hero/heroine is  lost in Tokyo, with a tenuous (if lucky)  connection to the life about them, sometimes devoid of a work relationship, sometimes family/tradition. It’s in this world that green monsters swear undying love, dancing dwarves help you to score with a girl, but there’s always some condition. Its a world
THE ELEPHANT VANISHES
where an aura of surrealism looks over your shoulder, where cause & effect change places. A place where what you imagined happening is just as valid as the memory of what happened, as in my favourite tale - On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl, One Beautiful April Morning. This tiny story of just  6 pages, where the narrator on passing his 100% perfect girl (her walking east to west & him west to east), doesn’t stop & talk to her. Later on, describing this to someone, he wished he could have stopped her. He then tells this tale complete with, Once upon a time, about 2 people perfect for each other meeting, & how it’s a sad tale. This is a beautiful, funny, sad story that I adored (In fact I read it twice over) that perfectly describes the human relationships within this book.



The Vanishing Elephant is a collection of stories & modern fairytales, that are darkly comic. They are full of lonely fragmented people, that live a puzzled dislocated existence. Some are shallow with little interior life; others have a deep yearning for meaning & self fulfilment. It’s in these tales, sometimes snuck between the lines, that the Murakami magic happens, where the humorous & puzzling tales highlight the absurdities in modern life & by the use of satire points to the mundanity of the daily merry-go-round that is our lives. 

 ele 3
 CONTENTS
  • The wind-up bird & Tuesday’s women.
  • The second bakery attack.
  • On seeing the 100% perfect girl, one beautiful April morning
  • Sleep.
  • The fall of the Roman empire. The 1881 Indian uprising. Hitler's invasion of  Poland
       & the realm of the raging wind.
  • Lederhosen.                                                                                                                                                                           
  • Barn burning.
  • The little green monster.                                                                                                                                         
  • Family affair.                                                                                          ele 4 
  • A window.
  • TV people.
  • A slow boat to china.
  • The dancing dwarf.
  • The last lawn of the afternoon.
  • The silence.
  • The Elephant vanishes.
 A Murakami link
http://www.murakami.ch/main_4.html

6 comments:

Rachel said...

I love Murakami! I am slowly making my way through his novels before I tackle his short stories. Great review!

Rachel
And the plot thickens...

parrish lantern said...

Thanks Rachel, I agree wiyh your opinion of Murakami & I find myself waiting with increasing impatience for 1q84 to come out in translation.

Novroz said...

This one sounds really interesting. I saw it in my library...will probably read it for the challenge

parrish lantern said...

Hi Novroz, this is a brilliant little book, that contains my favourite Murakami short story- On Seeing the 100% perfect Girl, one beautiful April Morning, this is just a sweet beautiful tale full of heartache & that slightly off centre touch that's pure Murakami, Enjoy.
Parrish

Novroz said...

so far, Murakami has never failed me with his short stories

Gnoe (@Graasland) said...

I'll keep your review for a later date, once I've read The Elephant Vanishes for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge! :)