Book Review: “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami

The Elephant Vanishes is a collection of short stories. This is the fifth Murakami book I’ve read, the others were novels (“Kafka on the Shore”,“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”,“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage” and Norwegian Wood).

The Elephant Vanishes

Murakami’s work can be rather surreal, there are elements of magic realism, fascinating characters and cats, a lot of cats. The stories in this collection are varied, I think Murakami is better as a novelist, where he has more time to develop the characters. I hadn’t noticed the title of the first story, The wind-up bird and Tuesday’s women ****: and when I began reading I thought this is strangely familiar, then I realised it was an extract from the novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” which I had already read. Doh!
The second bakery attack: ***** This short story about a couple who get hunger pangs in the middle of the night and decide to hold up a 24h McDonald’s is one of the more memorable stories. The power of suggestion: reading this I went to McDonald’s to order a Big Mac meal, something I haven’t done in years…this was a mistake…

The Elephant Vanishes, Big Mac Meal
Big Mac Meal…which I regretted


The kangaroo communique: ***
A man working from a department store receives a letter of complaint, then things go a bit weird.
On seeing the 100% perfect girl one April morning: *****
short but brilliant
Sleep: *****
Murakmi writes in the first person, but his character is a woman who hasn’t slept for 17 days, you need to suspend your disbelief a little to enjoy the story.
The fall of the Roman Empire, the 1881 Indian Uprising, Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and the realm of raging winds: **
Long title, dull story.
Lederhosen: ***
Murikami narrates as a woman again this woman is looking for a special present for her husband in Germany, during the trip the bonds of their relationship start to unravel.
Barn burning: *** The narrator meets a man who claims to burn barns for fun every once in a while, another strange story.

The little green monster: *** A woman battles mentally with a little green monster. Very surreal.

You are an ugly little monster, you know, I shouted in my mind’s loudest voice.

Family affair: *** An older brother and a younger but more responsible sister live together for several years. Things change when the older brother meets his sister’s fiancé, who horror of horrors likes Julio Iglesias. 
A window: ***
A man works for a society encouraging letter writing. Lonely women write to him and he corrects their letters.
TV people: ** The TV people are way shorter than normal people. They neither talk nor acknowledge anyone in their presence and just install… TV sets at home and at work.
A slow boat to China: ** A dull tale of how a Japanese man met three Chines people at different times in his life.
The dancing dwarf: **** This is like a modern day fairy tale. A young man dreams of a relationship with a pretty young woman. A dwarf, promises to make this happen if he can take over the young man’s body and dance with her.
The last lawn of the afternoon: **** The lawn mower man does a meticulous job cutting people’s lawns. One day he cuts a lawn outside his district, the woman of the house, a lonely widow, is more interested in the young man than in his mowing skills.
Silence: ***** This has a similar atmosphere to Alan Sillitoe’s “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner“. An average student takes boxing classes in his free time. He is wrongly implicated in the suicide of a fellow student, he is ostracised by his peers. The pain and isolation of our protagonist are transformed into feats of indomitable will and remarkable strength of character.
The elephant vanishes: **** The title of the collection. This is the tale of an elephant and its keeper vanishing from a zoo and probably something more.

My overall rating for the collection 3.5 out of 5. There are some good and memorable stories mixed in with some dull ones. I like stories that are a little weird but some of Murakami’s stories are too weird for me.

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