Posted in Short Stories

Haruki Murakami: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

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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.

6 thoughts on “Haruki Murakami: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

  1. Hi Dale,
    Murakami is one of the great “discoveries” of my time in the book blogging community. I have many favorites among his stories, and this is one of them. A new favorite after a re-read this year was his story New York Mining Disaster – also one of my favorite stories of the year overall.

    1. Jay,
      I keep having this debate with myself over whether its better to read a collection of stories all at once or to read them a little at a time. For some reason, I think the Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman collection is going to be a slow one. Like Bagombo Snuff Box – which I’ve still not completed. I want to be able to appreciate each story as opposed to read them all at once and have them all blurred together.

      1. That’s an interesting debate, isn’t it? 🙂 I generally end up reading them over a long period of time, especially when it’s an author I am enjoying (Murakami, Trevor, Joyce Carol Oates, Bradbury, etc). It’s like I don’t want to use them all up and have none left. Anthologies with different authors I almost always read piecemeal, but I think the rules would be different for those in this debate.


      2. Jay, on a slightly different note, have you ever read anything by Alice Munro? I read in one of those news clips that run on the bottom of CNN that she had won the Nobel prize in literature. They called her a short story writer. Did we ever read any of her stories for IRC? She sounds familiar.

  2. Hi Dale,
    I don’t remember reading her for IRC (I think we read an Alice Hoffman story once, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of). I’ve read a little of her. I have her collection “Too Much Happiness” which has been good so far.

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