The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange Library - Ted Goossen, Haruki Murakami

Two days later (and more at the time of this post) and I'm still mulling over this short but bewilderingly provoking book. This is, I'll admit, my first attempt at a Murakami story and I can say I'm impressed. Though short, there is a definite plot, you learn to like or dislike characters, and he still has plenty of time to set the scene and confound you.


A young boy returns his library books and is looking for some new ones to read. An unfamiliar librarian at the front desk directs him to the basement and a frightening old man in Room 107. Like so many readers here can attest, a stray thought sends him after information, in this case taxes in the Ottoman Empire. But these books can not leave the library and he might not either!


There were three things that stood out to me.


First was the random thought that sent the boy off for information. How many of us have found some random idea that we just had to know about? And how many of us have asked for a librarian's help and trusted them to help us? It did cause me to consider all the rabbit trails I've followed. Of course this also lead me to consider the whole concept of knowledge-packed brains being creamy and I thought of all the random bits of data stuffing mine. Of course what was going to happen to him didn't stop the boy from reading. Would it any of us?


Second, was the boy's attitude. He allowed the Old Man to dictate his actions for the entire meeting. He didn't want to be there, he didn't want to read the books in the library, and he didn't want to go with the Old Man. But he did all those things because they were expected of him and because the Old Man made him feel an inconvenience if he didn't He knew something was wrong and he went against his better judgement. Pair this to the Sheep Man who was so scared of the Man he did everything he was told to and one begins to see a pattern.


Lastly, the scenes when the boy reads the book about the Ottoman tax collector are captivating. The text describes how the story ensnares him. The boy becomes the tax collector to the point that he hears the crowd and smells the spice, thus completely being assumed into the book's world. The power of books.


I still have no idea what to think of this book but it has stayed with me and I doubt that will change. A remarkable story and an excellent translation.