Murakami’s third collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, is billed as his ‘most eclectic and eccentric’ to date. He admits, in the introduction, that he has not been able to fit into the Japanese literary establishment. It’s easy to see why he’s a misfit. A quick skim through the titles suggests that the author’s preoccupations are as vivid and particular as ever: ‘A Perfect Day for Kangaroos’, ‘The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema’, ‘The Kidney-shaped Stone That Moves Every Day’, ‘The Year of Spaghetti’. The twenty-six stories in this collection were written between 1981 and 2005 and include previously published and unpublished works. Translated by two of his three long-standing translators, Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin, it’s a classic box of Murakami treats. It is also an intriguing map of Murakami’s imaginative journeys over twenty-five years.
In ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ and ‘After the Quake’, Murakami proved that his wild storytelling skills are as comfortable and uninhibited in the short-story form as in the novel. This collection, though, is of particular interest because it illuminates paths between the two forms. Readers of Murakami’s novels will recognise ‘Firefly’