By: Haruki Murakami
Illustrator: Chip Kidd
Translator: Ted Goossen
Release Date: December 2, 2014
A small novella, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami sits neatly in the space between fairy tales, the surreal, and magical realism. It is a short thing, barely 96 pages, with a great deal of artwork. But within that space lies the unknown, the unforgiving, and both the harshness and beauty of the world and people.
A simple question leads to a month-long imprisonment by a strange man in this tale. A space beloved by many readers – the library – is turned into a frightening prison, trapping our protagonist and imprisoning a sheep man and a mysterious girl. If our hero doesn’t memorize and regurgitate all of the information found within the pages of a certain book, the consequence will death.
This is a tiny little thing, but a story that is no less immersive than any longer work. There is a feeling of mystery and otherworldliness on every page, one that is at once completely foreign and yet oh-so familiar.
In many ways, I wished this were just a hint longer, or else I had read other work by Murakami first. Certain element feel as if they are a part of an already established universe, with hints and nods best understood after reading other work of the authors. Bird imagery graces many pages, and while I am no strange to bird metaphor and mythology, I couldn’t help but feel as if some things were just a bit out of reach.
Most likely, this is due to listening to this as an audiobook. While the audiobook narration was wonderful, I do fear something may have been lost in the telling as the story was originally intended to be consumed with many full-color illustrations. Rereading this in its initial formatting is something I intend to rectify in the future.
Even so, there is something special here, something that is really quite memorable. The story transports you to another time and place. It makes you think twice before going to any library when Google is right at your fingertips.
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami is a short story well worth the read. However, it is something probably best consumed in print or digital format as opposed to audiobook due to the large number of illustrations.