Hi guys! As I mentioned a few times before, Haruki Murakami became one of my favorite authors of the year with Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I followed up with the beautiful Norwegian Wood. So naturally, when I heard another new Murakami was coming out this month, I knew I had to grab it. (By “new” I mean it came out in Japan in 2008, but was only recently translated to English).
The Strange Library is more short story than novel, and is interspersed with pictures and graphics throughout to enhance the story. The book tells the story of a nameless narrator, a schoolboy who visits the library on his way home to find more about topics that interest him. His mother had taught him to look up the things he doesn’t know; solid advice. That is until one day he wonders about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire. (How many school age boys are wondering about or even know about this?)
A librarian the boy has never seen before directs him through a doorway, and he soon meets a mysterious, terrifying old man who proceeds to give the boy three giant tomes on taxation in the Ottoman Empire. He then leads the boy down a labyrinth of hallways and steps to a “reading room,” as he calls it. What unfolds is a series of events curious enough to fit in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.
The library and its strange inhabitants have a nightmarish quality to them, and the whole experience is made even sharper by the pictures throughout. The book itself is like a work of art: from the foldout cover, to the first page being the cover page, to the images accompanying the story. I was intrigued by the tapping of the shoes on the first page, and found that I flew through the book on a train ride.
I had high hopes for this one, and Murakami did not let me down. This was definitely strange, and unique from anything I’ve read before, but if you’re looking for something memorable, quick, and something that will leave you guessing even after you flip the cover down, try Murakami’s latest, The Strange Library!