Reading: The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami’s novella, The Strange Library (Taiwan version) is a pretty little hardcover, only 70 pages thick with Sheep Man and tiny gold specks on the front cover. So pretty, I cannot resist but grab a copy from the bookstore!
The short story was first published in the short story collection On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl On One Beautiful April Morning back in the early 90s.
The Taiwanese Chinese version that I have is translated by 賴明珠 and includes illustrations by Kat Menschik from the German version. The illustrations are mainly grayscale with muted colours, very dark but elegant as well.
The story goes, as usual, very Murakami-esque:
A boy went to his local library intend to read up about tax collection during Ottoman empire. Unlike his usual trips, he was directed to a dark, creepy room underground by the librarian. There a strange, bald man led him through a maze of sorts, and then a small man covered with sheep skin locked him in a cell.
In the cell the boy is required to finish the 3 books the bald man has gave him, and which the bald man said will release after a month if he has finished the books. The truth was, however, that he might not end up alive.
That aside, the boy was fed extremely well by Sheep Man (great doughnuts) and met with a beautiful girl whose existence did not seem to be certain. In a peculiar way he found himself to be able to absorb the knowledge from the books much easier, and even able to experience the story itself. He also worried about his mother and his pet.
I always love the fantasy elements in Murakami’s works, as if those alternate worlds do exist right here on Earth; and somebody we don’t know is travelling through it. I am slightly disappointed that this is not quite a children’s book (not an appropriate expectation); nevertheless I still adore the story and the accompanying illustrations a lot. My future trips to libraries will never be the same anymore.
p/s I wish I had browsed the English translations to get Ted Goossen’s version instead :O