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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Cover of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
24 Stories
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The twenty-four stories that make up Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman generously express the incomparable Haruki Murakami's mastery of the form.
Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an ice man, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit Murakami's ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and entertaining.

The twenty-four stories that make up Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman generously express the incomparable Haruki Murakami's mastery of the form.
Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an ice man, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit Murakami's ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and entertaining.

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  • From the book Blind Willow, Sleeping WomanWhen 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 silently. My cousin can’t hear well out of his right ear. Soon after he went into elementary school he was hit by a baseball and it screwed up his hearing. That doesn’t keep him from functioning normally most of the time. He attends a regular school, leads an entirely normal life. In his classroom, he always sits in the front row, on the right, so he can keep his left ear toward the teacher. And his grades aren’t so bad. The thing is, though, he goes through periods when he can hear sounds pretty well, and periods when he can’t. It’s cyclical, like the tides. And sometimes, maybe twice a year, he can barely hear anything out of either ear. It’s like the silence in his right ear deepens to the point where it crushes out any sound on the left side. When that happens, ordinary life goes out the window and he has to take some time off from school. The doctors are basi- cally stumped. They’ve never seen a case like it, so there’s nothing they can do.“Just because a watch is expensive doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” my cousin said, as if trying to convince himself. “I used to have a pretty expensive watch, but it was always off. I got it when I started junior high, but I lost it a year later. Since then I’ve gone without a watch. They won’t buy me a new one.”“Must be tough to get along without one,” I said.“What?” he asked.“Isn’t it hard to get along without a watch?” I repeated, looking right at him.“No, it isn’t,” he replied, shaking his head. “It’s not like I’m living off in the mountains or something. If I want to know the time I just ask somebody.”“True enough,” I said.We were silent again for a while.I knew I should say something more, try to be kind to him, try to make him relax a little until we arrived at the hospital. But it had been five years since I saw him last. In the meanwhile he’d grown from nine to fourteen, and I’d gone from twenty to twenty-five. And that span of time had created a translucent barrier between us that was hard to traverse. Even when I had to say something, the right words just wouldn’t come out. And every time I hesitated, every time I swallowed back something I was about to say, my cousin looked at me with a slightly confused look on his face. His left ear tilted ever so slightly toward me.“What time is it now?” he asked me.“Ten twenty-nine,” I replied.It was ten thirty-two when the...
About the Author-
  • Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into thirty-four languages, and the most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe.


    From the Trade Paperback edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 12, 2006


    Reviewed by
    Lily Tuck
    One of my favorite Haruki Murakami stories is "The Elephant Vanishes"—part of an earlier collection published in 1991—in which the narrator watches as an elephant in a zoo grows smaller and smaller until finally the elephant disappears. No explanation is given, there is no resolution, the vanished elephant remains a mystery at the same time that the narrator's life is changed forever.
    Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
    , Murakami's new collection of 25 stories, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker
    and other publications, also describes these epiphanic instances. In the title story, a character who is half deaf, alludes to a John Ford movie, Fort Apache
    , in which John Wayne tells the newly arrived colonel that if he actually saw some Indians on his way to the fort that means there weren't any. Everything is a bit off—including of course the blind willow trees whose pollen carry flies that burrow inside a sleeping woman's ears—as in a dream, where explanations are always lacking but where interpretations are plentiful.
    In "Mirror," the narrator sees someone who appears to be both himself and not himself in a mirror and then finds out the mirror does not exist; the disaffected woman—a lot of Murakami's characters are handicapped or incapacitated in some physical way—in "The Shinagawa Monkey," loses her own name; in "Man-Eating Cats," the narrator's girlfriend disappears and as he searches for her finds that "with each step I took, I felt myself sinking deeper into a quicksand where my identity vanished."
    Murakami's stories are difficult to describe and one should, I think, resist attempts to overanalyze them. Their beauty lies in their ephemeral and incantatory qualities and in his uncanny ability to tap into a sort of collective unconscious. In addition, a part of Murakami's genius is that he uses images as plot points, going from image to image, like in the marvelous story "Airplane," where, while making love, the narrator imagines strings hanging from the ceiling and how each one might open up a different possibility—good and bad. It is clear that Murakami is well acquainted with the teachings of Buddhism, western philosophies, Jungian theory; he has a deep knowledge of music and, also, I have been told, is a dedicated, strong swimmer. In his stories, he roams freely and convincingly through all these elements (and no doubt many more) without differentiating to create a world where cats talk and elephants disappear.
    In the introduction to this collection, Murakami writes how, for him, writing a novel is a challenge and how writing short stories is a joy—these stories are a joy for his readers as well.
    Lily Tuck's most recent novel,
    The News from Paraguay, won the 2004 National Book Award.

  • San Francisco Chronicle

    "A warning to new readers of Haruki Murakami: You will become addicted. . . . His newest collection is as enigmatic and sublime as ever."

  • Chicago Tribune "Whimsical, magical, daring or sometimes played with the mute in the bell of the trumpet. . . . The best of these linger far beyond the reading of them."
  • Washington Post Book World "Murakami's writing perfectly captures the way surreal, even seemingly supernatural, encounters can subtly alter the terrain of everyday life."
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review

    "This collection shows Murakami at his dynamic, organic best. . . . In Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami demonstrates brilliantly the perils of trying to squeeze life into prefabricated compartments."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
24 Stories
Haruki Murakami
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