I knew I would be reading a book by a Japanese author for RIP X. I just didn’t expect it to be Haruki Murakami. He does write slightly odd books but I guess I never thought any of them really fit into the RIP mood. I can think of plenty of other Japanese writers that would easily do that like Natsuo Kirino, Keigo Higashino, Koji Suzuki.
So it was interesting to read this little volume from Murakami. The American version of it has a flap-over cover. Or whatever the professional term for that is. See the photo in the middle. Essentially the red cover flips open as does the bit at the bottom. And each page has an image on one side and text on the other. The text is alarmingly large but you’ll get used to it. I suppose that is how the publisher managed to turn what is essentially a short story into a book-length publication.
I’m not complaining though. I like the use of the images through the book. It made for a different read.
Opening the book up, top flap then bottom is a little like opening a box. A boxful of secrets, a hidden room, a library of deep dark weirdness, a prison of sorts.
Our nameless young boy goes to the library to return books and read up on Ottoman Empire taxation. And he is led to a room downstairs, a room he never knew existed. There he is told that he will be imprisoned in a room in the library and he has to memorise three books on the Ottoman Empire tax system. If not, his brains will be feasted on.
(Way to encourage kids to spend time at the library, Mr Murakami!)
Anyway, a strange little read from the master of Japanese fiction. Suitable indeed for RIP and whatever odd reading mood you are in.
What I found fascinating also is that the British version of the book has different illustrations, as this article from The Guardian shows.
The Millions examines this a bit more, and shows us the cover of the original Japanese book, and further ignites my curiosity about the British version: “Open up that edition to any page and the word “vintage” will spring to mind, from the lovely marbled endpapers to the reproduced antique plates of dogs and birds.”
Apparently, Chip Kidd’s American design had some familiar with Japanese publishing shaking their heads in dismay!
I read this book for Diversiverse and RIP X
Surprised me, but on reflection, I guess not so much of a surprise that as you say the Master of fiction would be able to turn his hand to something different and strange. I must read some Murakami, it’s almost embarrassing not to have.
[…] RIP X and Diversiverse: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami […]
I need to read this one. I’ve only read 1Q84 by him and it would be nice to try something a little shorter.
I think it’s a lot shorter. 😛
I absolutely love the presentation on this one: it made me think more about the actual act of opening a book and entering another world.
I thumbed through this book at the library over the summer and was so impressed with its presentation! I didn’t check it out that time, but I have it on my wish list to find again.
I’ve now been falling down the rabbit holes of those articles. The differences in design are fascinating.
I don’t think our library has this one, but maybe I can talk our director into getting it. I don’t think this is one I could read on ebook, at least not from what it sounds like.
This is definitely not an ebook type of book. This is a book that needs to be opened, admired, read, all in printed form and not via the glare of a screen. 🙂
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