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).
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…
DO NOT READ THIS STORY IF YOU ARE HUNGRY!
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
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.
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.