The Elephant Vanishes

The Elephant Vanishes is a collection of 17 short stories by famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, more commonly known for his novel A Wild Sheep Chase. Some of the stories in this collection first appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Magazine (Mobil Corp) before the book was published.

The book begins with "The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women" and is a good indicator of what else is to come – strange occurrences in an otherwise typical day. A man gets a strange call from a female whose voice he does not recognise. His peaceful life at once becomes disrupted although he seems unaware – he finds fault with his wife, meets a disgruntled teenager and fails to find his cat. While some might be turned off by the rambling narration style the Murakami adopts, it might come across to others as an accurate depiction of the average man's train of thought.

Some of the stories in this collection such as "Sleep", where a housewife loses sleep for no apparent reason, might strike a chord with readers. Other stories often profile directionless, lonely or simply strange characters and/or events: The TV people mysteriously appear to set up a television in a man's room, a pair of lederhosen spurs a woman to suddenly divorce her husband, or the absurdity of an overwhelmingly hungry pair of newly weds robbing a MacDonalds for burgers over cash.

Throughout the book, he makes reference to pop culture, chronicles awkward conversations with people, portrays surrealism in a matter-of-fact tone... all written in short simple yet descriptive manner that is thought provoking at the same time. Like many other of his books, they discuss issues involving loss, destruction, loneliness and confusion. Endings are very much open to interpretation so don't expect the typical endings or resolutions.

In all, Murakami's novels are probably better than his short stories but this would be a good one to see if his works are good for you.

Related links: Haruki Murakami website, Wikipedia – Haruki Murakami
Buy the book: The Elephant Vanishes

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