Read 12 Stories By Haruki Murakami Free Online

Image by wakari­m­a­sita, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In her New York Times review of Haru­ki Murakami’s lat­est, Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age, Pat­ti Smith writes that the nov­el­ist has two modes, “the sur­re­al, intra-dimen­sion­al side” and the “more min­i­mal­ist, real­ist side.” These two Murakamis often coex­ist with­in the same work of fic­tion, as the fan­tas­tic or the super­nat­ur­al invades the real, or the oth­er way around. Like one of his lit­er­ary heroes, Franz Kaf­ka, Murakami’s work doesn’t so much cre­ate alter­nate real­i­ties as it alters real­i­ty, with all its mun­dane details and hum­drum dai­ly rou­tines. As Ted Gioia put it in a review of Murakami’s Kaf­ka on the Shore, “this abil­i­ty to cap­ture the phan­tas­magor­i­cal in the thick of com­muter traf­fic, broad­band Inter­net con­nec­tions and high-rise archi­tec­ture is the dis­tinc­tive call­ing card of Murakami”—he “mes­mer­izes us by work­ing his leg­erde­main in places where real­i­ty would seem to be rock sol­id.”

In Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki Muraka­mi works this same mag­ic, as you can see in this excerpt pub­lished in Slate last month. Tex­tured with gran­u­lar real­ist details and straight­for­ward nar­ra­tion, the scene slow­ly builds into a cap­ti­vat­ing super­nat­ur­al tale that slides just as eas­i­ly back into the weft and warp of wak­ing life. In one piece of dia­logue, Muraka­mi sums up one way we might read all of his “sur­re­al, intra-dimen­sion­al” flights: “It wasn’t an issue of whether or not he believed it. I think he total­ly accept­ed it as the weird tale it was. Like the way a snake will swal­low its prey and not chew it, but instead let it slow­ly digest.” Giv­en the jit­tery, dis­tract­ed state of most mod­ern read­ers in a tech­no­log­i­cal land­scape that push­es us to make hasty judg­ments and snap­py, ill-con­sid­ered replies, it is sur­pris­ing how many of Murakami’s fans are will­ing to take the time. And it is no sub­set of clois­tered devo­tees either, but, in Pat­ti Smith’s words, “the alien­at­ed, the ath­let­ic, the dis­en­chant­ed and the buoy­ant.”

Muraka­mi finds read­ers across this broad spec­trum for many rea­sons; his prose is acces­si­ble even when his nar­ra­tives are baf­fling. (Gioia notes that “when the Japan­ese pub­lish­er of Kaf­ka on the Shore set up a web­site allow­ing read­ers to ask ques­tions of the author, some 8,000 were sub­mit­ted.”) His peren­ni­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with, and immer­sion in, the worlds of jazz, rock, and clas­si­cal music, base­ball, and run­ning, draw in those who might nor­mal­ly avoid the Kaf­ka-esque. But when we come to Muraka­mi, Kaf­ka-esque is very often what we find, as well as Salinger-esque, Von­negut-esque, Pyn­chon-esque, even Philip K. Dick-esque, as well as the –esque of real­ist mas­ters like Ray­mond Carv­er. Whether you’re new to Muraka­mi or a long­time fan of his work, you’ll find all of these ten­den­cies, and much more to love, in the four short sto­ries we present below, all free to read at The New York­er for a lim­it­ed time (the mag­a­zine will go behind a pay­wall in the fall).

Take advan­tage of this brief reprieve and enjoy the many rich­es of Haru­ki Murakami’s fic­tive worlds, which so decep­tive­ly imper­son­ate the one most of us live in that we feel right at home in his work until it jolts us out of the famil­iar and into a “weird tale.” Whether you believe them or not, they’re sure to stay with you awhile.

“Kino” (Feb­ru­ary 23, 2015)

“A Walk to Kobe” (August 6, 2013)

Sam­sa in Love” (Octo­ber 28, 2013)

Yes­ter­day” (June 9, 2014)

Scheherazade” (Octo­ber 13, 2014)

Town of Cats,” trans­lat­ed from the Japan­ese by Jay Rubin (Sep­tem­ber 5, 2011)

U.F.O. in Kushi­ro” (March 28, 2011; orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished March 19, 2001)

Cream” (Jan­u­ary 28, 2019)

With the Bea­t­les” (Feb­ru­ary 10, 2020)

Con­fes­sions of a Shi­na­gawa Mon­key” (June 1, 2020)

The King­dom That Failed” (August 13, 2020)

And last but sure­ly not least, we bring you “The Folk­lore of Our Times” from The Guardian (pub­lished August 1, 2003), one of Murakami’s involved real­ist com­ing-of-age nar­ra­tives notable for the mature, almost world-weary insights he draws from the seem­ing­ly unex­cep­tion­al fab­ric of ordi­nary expe­ri­ence.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith Reviews Haru­ki Murakami’s New Nov­el, Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age

In Search of Haru­ki Muraka­mi: A Doc­u­men­tary Intro­duc­tion to Japan’s Great Post­mod­ernist Nov­el­ist

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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    • andreas kastelholm says:

      In case you’re not trolling, he is a Japan­ese writer in the tra­di­tion of beat-lit­er­a­ture and jazzy Amer­i­can pop fic­tion. But with a sur­re­al and mag­i­cal-real­ist twist. He is famous for sto­ries that sur­prise in how they don’t real­ly make sense, as he bends the nat­ur­al laws to describe uni­vers­es where real­i­ty melts with the men­tal states of his char­ac­ters. Some­times they seem alle­gor­i­cal, some­times it seems to be weird just for the fun of wild cre­ativ­i­ty. He might be the most play­ful nov­el­ist alive today. He has been expect­ed to win the Nobel Prize for years, but maybe his shtick is too samey for the com­mit­tee, as he tends to repeat the same motifs and ten­den­cies in most of his works.


    I love Murakamir“state of mind which is spir­i­tu­al and mag­i­cal both at a time.

  • s madhavan says:

    Thanks for the free offer.

    Haru­ki Muraka­mi is non­pareil. High­ly spir­i­tu­al­is­tic with world­ly grandeur. Uncan­ny mix of extremes — the essence of life itself.

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