In 2008 I picked up a compilation of short stories by Haruki Murakami entitled An Elephant Vanishes. I loved the style and eagerly Skyped my wife, who was then halfway around the world in Korea, to tell her about my new discovery. Coincidentally, she’d just picked up Kafka on the Shore, also by Murakami, and was equally impressed. Since then, I have devoured every one of his novels that I can get my hands on, so I was quite happily surprised when I discovered a new short story/novella, The Strange Library, while perusing my library’s ebook catalogue. I immediately downloaded it and was quite pleased.
The novella is short and sweet with only a handful of characters. Without giving too much away, it is the tale of a boy who goes to the library to read up on the tax codes of the Ottoman Empire but instead finds himself imprisoned deep underneath the building. While there are no references to cats or scotch, there are many characteristic elements of Murakami’s style packed into the book; an eerie and fantastical other-world existing on the edges of our own, a mysterious woman, and even a sheep man (but probably not the one seasoned readers have come to know). Adding to the sense of weirdness are a variety of images included throughout the text that offer up snapshots of the main character’s surroundings.
I enjoyed this book and flew through it in about half an hour. It grabs the reader from start to finish and left me wishing there was more (in a good way). I am really happy I picked it up as I haven’t read anything by Murakami since 1Q84 came out a few years back and am saving Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage for the Fall/Winter. Not sure why exactly, but it feels more like that kind of book. Reading this though certainly increased my anticipation for the next one.