Summary and book reviews of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

By Haruki Murakami

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2006,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2007,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

Following the best-selling triumph of Kafka on the Shore - “daringly original,” wrote Steven Moore in The Washington Post Book World, “and compulsively readable” - comes a collection that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining. As Richard Eder has written in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, “He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness.”

Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami’s characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be the closest of all.

“While anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream,” Laura Miller wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “it’s the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves”—a feat performed anew twenty-four times in this career-spanning book.

BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN

When I closed my eyes, the scent of the wind wafted up toward me. A May wind, swelling up like a piece of fruit, with a rough outer skin, slimy flesh, dozens of seeds. The flesh split open in midair, spraying seeds like gentle buckshot into the bare skin of my arms, leaving behind a faint trace of pain.

"What time is it?" my cousin asked me. About eight inches shorter than me, he had to look up when he talked.

I glanced at my watch. "Ten twenty."

"Does that watch tell good time?"

"Yeah, I think so."

My cousin grabbed my wrist to look at the watch. His slim, smooth fingers were surprisingly strong. "Did it cost a lot?"

"No, it's pretty cheap," I said, glancing again at the timetable.

No response.

My cousin looked confused. The white teeth between his parted lips looked like bones that had atrophied.

"It's pretty cheap," I said, looking right at him, carefully repeating the words. "It's pretty cheap, but it keeps good time."

My cousin nodded ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

If you're an aficionado of all things Murakami this is a collection you'll want to read cover to cover, probably in chronological order so as to see how his writing has changed over time. However, if you've enjoyed some of his earlier works but been a little bemused by others (or this is the first time you've read anything by Murakami) you'd be best to read strategically, skipping over the stories that don't resonate, and leaving a reasonable amount of time between mouthfuls.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [The stories'] beauty lies in their ephemeral and incantatory qualities and in his uncanny ability to tap into a sort of collective unconscious.

Kirkus Reviews

A superlative display of a great writer's wares. Absolutely essential.

Booklist

Readers who fear the short story, particularly by writers with a high literary reputation, need to set hesitations aside here. Murakami is an open-armed, hospitable short story writer [with] a greatly appealing and embracing personal narrative voice.

Times Literary Supplement (London)

[Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman] will undoubtedly confirm his reputation as literature's answer to David Lynch.

New Statesman

Sharp but humane [and] as unforgettable as it is untypical.

The Observer (UK)

Engrossing . . . Although Murakami's style and deadpan humor are wonderfully distinctive, his emotional territory is more familiar--remorse, unresolved confusion, sudden epiphanies--though heightened by the surreal.

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Beyond the Book

.... continued from main block.

In addition to writing his own books in Japanese (which have been translated into more than thirty languages), Murakami is a skillful translator of English works into Japanese, including works by Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, John Irving and Paul Theroux.

In 2006, Murakami became the sixth winner of the Franz Kafka Prize, co-sponsored by the Franz Kafka Society and the city of Prague (previous winners include Philip Roth and Harold Pinter). In 2007 he was awarded the Kiriyama Prize for Fiction for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman but, according to the Kiriyama Official website, "declined to accept the award for reasons of personal principle". The Kiriyama Prize, established in 1996, is...

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