In this “where Gabriel Garcia Marquez-meets-Lewis Carroll” story, Haruki Murakami once again demonstrates with powerful precision that he is the undisputed master of a unique genre, an intricate blend of fictional realism, horror and metaphysics.
An intrepid little boy, having been spontaneously incited in the mind to learn more about the methods employed by the Ottoman Turks to collect taxes heads to a city library. He is directed to go to Room No.107 at the basement of the stairs. What follows is an incredulous tale involving a geriatric with a penchant for sucking intellectual brains, a girl who employs her hands to talk, a sheep-man and a jar full of hideous caterpillars, amongst others!
At once macabre and at others fantasy, ‘The Strange Library’ transports the reader into a weird world meticulously created by solely resorting to the most powerful tool available to a craftsman or a builder – imagination. As one is powerlessly swept away at the turn of each page, the sweeping force holds the careening reader in an indescribable thrall. Like the hallmark of many Murakami short stories, the characters do not have names and there is no mention of either name of the library or the city in which it is located.
While Ted Goossen’s translation is phenomenal, the eerily appropriate illustrations adorning the book greatly enhance and accentuate the reading effect.
‘The Strange Library’ hardly takes half an hour or more of reading from cover to cover, but the consequences of such an effort remain seared in the head for a long long time!