I started collecting Murakami novels during the Japanese Literature Challenge 2, hosted by Della Belleza. It's since waited on the shelf for this years JLC3, but didn't have to wait long before I picked it up.
The back cover says 'Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, an ice man, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for.....Murakami's characters confront loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distance between those who ought to be closest of all.' For me, this collection of short stories were a powerful reminder of the things (real or imagined or hoped) that I've lost, and the meaning these experience are given (or not) in my life.
Just a couple of reflections:
- Imagine losing your identity to a monkey with an infatuation with names? Shanghai Monkey (the last story) powerfully and poignantly questions "what's in a name?" "What is your identity?" "What defines who you are and how you behave?" For me, does my name, or my profession, or my religion or my suburb define me? - or can I exist with out any of these identifying features?
- Man Eating Cats got it's name from a short piece in the newspaper about a woman who lost her life, dying in her apartment, and then she lost her flesh from the cats she kept in her apartment. It's really a story of men and women, relationships, marriage and loss. The author and his girlfriend lost their marriages, and moved away from Japan - perhaps essentially losing their real identities as Japanese people? In the end when the author looses the girlfriend, in true Murakami style, in what seems like a surreal dream. After searching for her, he realises he may as well be dead and eaten by man eating cats, because he had lost the 'real me' and now also the 'provisional me'. More questions are raised for the reader..