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Just recently, I watched the John Wayne movie, The Searchers, as I saw it on a list of top ten best movies that never won an award. I really enjoyed it and now I’ve found it intriguing that I’ve read a short story where another John Wayne movie, Fort Apache, is central to the story. I use the term ‘central’ loosely as the story is Haruki Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” from his collection of short stories of the same name. The only other Murakami work that I’ve read is his more recent novel 1Q84. “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” has the same surreal touch.
For me, the John Wayne reference seemed central, even if the story toggled back and forth between a current hospital visit and a reminiscing about another hospital visit – and it included a story within the story about a sleeping woman who has blind willow flies crawl into her ears. When asked if the flies ate the woman’s insides, the storyteller answered “in essence”. Much of the story appears to be “in essence”.
The relationship between the narrator and his younger cousin impressed me. It was a real relationship in a surreal story. The two make a routine visit to a hospital for the ear problems of the younger cousin when the John Wayne movie comes up. The cousin discusses a point in the movie when John Wayne tells a colonel that if he spotted Indians it meant they weren’t really there.
Murakami makes the inclusion of a western movie and movie star blend into an eastern story. By the end, the narrator finds himself briefly in “a strange, dim place. Where the the things I could see didn’t exist. Where the invisible did.” Whether this is a western thought or an eastern thought, I’m not sure. Maybe that’s what Murakami intended.
This story popped up on my radar when I read Jay’s post about it at Bibliophilopolis. Since I drew the two of diamonds, a wild card, I thought I would give it a try. I’m glad I did. I think more Murakami will be included in my future reading.