“A fire can be any shape it wants to be. It’s free.So it can look like anything at all depending on what’s inside the person looking at it”- Landscape with Flatrion (After the quake) Haruki Murakami
I must admit that Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite author and never before have I attempted to review his books. The precise reason for this being Murakami’s work always engulf me to the extent that it is difficult for me to get out of it for days on end. Post reading most of his books I am mesmerised by its brilliance such that I suffer from worst reading slumps. After the quake was the first collection of short stories that I have read of Murakami. I feel that this book can be a good introduction to the work of Haruki Murakami for people who want to start reading Murakami’s books. So I have made an attempt to review it.
Author: Haruki Murakami
No of pages: 134
About the book:
This book is a collection of six short stories. All stories are dated post the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995 in Japan.None of the protagonists in any of the stories suffer from any loss in this earthquake. Yet this disaster jostles their life like the aftershocks of the earthquake. The first story is UFO in Kushiro. It follows the story of Komura who like most of Murakami’s male protagonist leads a mundane listless life. His wife is glued to the television for days watching news about the Kobe earthquake. This affects her to the degree that she divorces Komura as she feels that he is empty as a person. Still, Komura does not seem much affected and travels to Hokkaido. It is there he realises the void that is present in him.
The second story is Landscape with Flatrion. This follows the story of Junko and Miyake. Miyake is passionate about bonfires and is scared of the refrigerator. He dreams that the refrigerator will engulf him and he will die a slow suffocating death. Junko sees a deep calm and peace in the bonfire and as the fire dwindles she realises that she is empty as a person. This greatly perturbs her and they both feel that they could die together.
All God’s children can dance follows the story of Yoshiya. He had a single mother who posts her dark teenage years becomes a staunch believer of God. She tells Yoshiya that he is the son of God. His mother had told him of a doctor whose ear lobes were bitten off by a dog. He believes this person is his father and on encountering such a person one day he starts following him. At last, he has a vision where he again resorts to God.
The fourth story is Thailand. This follows the story of Satsuki, who has separated from her husband. Her husband resides in Kobe and Satsuki wishes that he should have died in the earthquake. Her chauffeur Nimit takes her to an old lady, healer of souls who tells her that she has a stone inside her. This stone will kill her and she has to let the snake who will come in her dream engulf this stone.
Super frog saves Tokyo is the story where a giant six-foot frog visits Katagiri and informs him that a big earthquake is going to take place in Tokyo. The frog needs the help of Katagiri to stop this earthquake and they need to fight with the worm. Here too Katagiri is a simple decent guy who neither gets appreciation and is alone.
The last story is Honey pie. This is the classic story of unrequited love. It follows the story of three friends Junpei, Sayoko and Takatsuki. Junpei loves Sayoko but is unable to express it, in the meanwhile Takatsuki who is more aggressive proposes Sayoko. Junpei is devastated but he masks his feeling. Takatuski and Sayoko get married and have a daughter named Sala. Junpei is still close to them. Opportunity to express his love again comes for Junpei as Sayoko and Takatsuki separate ways but Junpei still is not able to express his feelings. The earthquake jostles him and gives him the courage to pursue his love.
Till date, these stories are the most simple stories of Murakami that I have read. The writing is very straight forward. Yet like most Murakami works you will find elements of strangeness, magical realism, surrealism and existentialism strewn across the stories. Most of the stories have a lot of layers within them. The magic of Murakami lies that each one of us can see and derive a different meaning from all these stories. The stories as a whole encompassed how at times a disaster which even if it occurs away from us makes us realise that we are mortal beings and that death is inevitable. It pulls us from the cosy shells that we hide ourselves in and makes us face reality.
Personally for me UFO in Kushiro was about how at times some outside triggers make us realise the listlessness in our life. We maybe diligently doing a certain task day in and out without giving much thought to it but this very routine in life maybe driving us away from our mortal existence. Thailand was my favourite story from this collection. This showed me how at times hatred becomes so intrisinic to us that we wish for disasters to happen so that the person we hate is killed. Yet this hatred affects us more and like a stone gets stuck to us, killing us slowing day by day.
Super Frog saves Tokyo was the most sad story in this collection and another of my favourite. Katagiri imagines that the frog guides him and he is so enthusiastic about the frog’s company that he wishes to read the novels that the frog told him so that it can talk to him. The fact that he constantly calls the frog Mr frog and the frog tells him to call him just frog was a symbol for the fact that the only conversation that Katagiri had was official ones, he had no company to interact to. This frog for me was a mirror who allowed Katagiri to see the reflection of the loneliness in his life. He guided him to fight through this darkness of loneliness. All God’s children can dance denoted how at the end all of us motals resort to the help of some spirutality.
Honey Pie was a story of hope for me.It showed me how at times it is a calamity which gives you the courage to go forth and do something which one is afraid of doing all the while.
If anyone wants to get introduced to the books of Murakami I feel that this book will be a great start to it. It has all the elements that Murakami largely uses. The characters are similar to the ones that he uses across his novels. This is a great book and like most books of Murakami it is one which demands your unwavering attention to realise the true pearls of beauty in it.
4.5/5 stars (-.5 because I wish it had more stories)