The Elephant Vanishes is bitesize Murakami; from the surreal to the mundane and moving to funny, all the hallmarks of Haruki Murakami’s story-telling can be seen across this collection of short stories.
I like to think of them as eloquent ramblings. Like the kind of conversations we have at work, the topic evolves and soon becomes something completely unrelated to what was being discussed, sometimes they go full circle, sometimes the thought process gets lost. Murakami’s short stories often feel like conversations too. Some of them are letters, some may be conversations with another character and sometimes, they simply feel like conversation with the reader.
Many Murakami enthusiasts are adamant that translations other than Jay Rubin’s are inferior however this collection includes both Rubin and Alfred Birnbaum. Unlike some translators who work a little of themselves into the text, these stories all say Murakami to me. I wouldn’t be ale to pick them apart and my favourites tales came from both translators.
The first story is the start of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but translated by Birnbaum. I kindly gave away my copy of the novel so I haven’t been able to compare the two but it would be interesting to see the differences. I’ll be honest, as soon as I realised it was the same I skipped onto the next story, so please correct me if this goes of course and I’m talking rubbish!
It did slightly amuse me that one of the stories was first published in Playboy. I always thought people were making excuses when they said they read it for the articles but this has made me think again.
My favourites stories would have to be TV People and Sleep. It’s not a book that I would sit and read cover to cover but I enjoyed picking it up to read a story or two between my other reads.