Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

The author Haruki Murakami was recommended to me by fellow blogger, Bellezza. I’d heard of Murakami before but not read anything by him until today. This morning, for my 2011 “deal me in” short story reading project, I drew the King of Diamonds (what’s with all these diamonds? I will have a flush soon!), and that card is marked for the story Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (see my page titled “deal me in selections” for a complete list of potential reads this year). Of course, I didn’t already own this one, and it is too recent to be had for free anywhere on the Internet (at least anywhere I could find), so I downloaded a collection of his stories from my Barnes & Noble account.

The collection also includes an author’s introduction, which I found very interesting. It seems he likes to alternate between working on novels and short stories, but cannot work on both at the same time, hypothesizing that a different part of the brain must be in use for each. He also includes the wonderful paragraph:

“My short stories are like soft shadows I’ve set out in the world, faint footprints I’ve left behind. I remember exactly when I set down each and everyone of them, and how I felt when I did.”

This particular story takes its name from a dream/ story that the girlfriend of the narrator’s friend told them about when they had come to visit her in a hospital after a minor operation. It’s hard to say what this story is actually about (maybe it’s about “nothing” – like that famous sitcom). What it may be about, though, is that fragile escape into memories that we all are sometimes able to effect. In this story, the narrator’s task at hand is accompanying his young cousin to an appointment at a hospital to have his hearing in one ear checked yet again. As he waits for the appointment to be over, the narrator lapses back into memory of the other hospital visit years ago.

Though reading in translation, it seems pretty clear to me at Murakami writes beautifully. Speaking of his reminiscences as “returning to the realm of memory,” and – late in the story – when his cousin grabs him by the arm, asking “Are you alright?” when it appears the narrator is “lost in thought” he (the narrator) muses immediately after being ‘brought back to reality’ that “for a few seconds I stood there in a strange, dim place. Where the things I could see didn’t exist. Where the invisible did.” I found that to be one of my favorite passages I’ve read in ANYTHING lately.

This story left me with more of a “feeling” than a “literary take” or impression, and I can’t remember anything else I’ve read recently that I can say that about.

Haruki Murakami

What about you? Have you read any Murakami? What were your impressions?



  1. Dale Barthauer said,

    February 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I really liked that quote, Jay! I’m going to have to write that one down. And read the story!


  2. March 29, 2011 at 7:18 am

    […] man who wrote Ben Hur was a Hoosier.” At this point I closed the book for a moment and, as Haruki Murakami might say, entered the realm of […]


  3. Bellezza said,

    October 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    What a powerful, eloquent review you’ve written about this book in particular, but Murakami specifically. You’ve taught me things about him I didn’t know! I love the quotes about shorts stories, I love the quote you put about “Where the things I could see didn’t exist. Where the invisible did.” He has such a wonderful way of expanding my thinking, of showing me a new perspective, and leaving me “wide open to possibilities” (again, his words). So looking forward to IQ84, delivered to my nook for it’s release today. Perhaps you’ll read it as well, and we can talk about it.

    By the way, you might like to join in the <a href=""Japanese Literature Challenge 5 which ends in January and only requires on book from the genre to be read. 🙂


    • Jay said,

      October 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks for the very nice comment (and link). I don’t know if I’ll take the plunge into the JLC with you or not, but I did download IQ84 last night and do plan to read it. (I had no idea how long it was – yikes!)

      I’ve read a lot of short stories this year and only two or three have had a really profound effect on me. Murakami’s was one. (another was After Rain by William Trevor, whose collection of the same name I highly recommend.)



  4. Bellezza said,

    October 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Sorry. The link didn’t work because i forget to end it properly. Here it is again: Japanese Literature Challenge 5


  5. Risa said,

    January 6, 2012 at 3:51 am

    This story left me with more of a “feeling” than a “literary take” or impression — I know exactly what you mean! I loved the impression it made on me. I read and reviewed it sometime last year too.


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