Is Murakami's new book good

What is the name of the new volume of stories by Haruki Murakami, who topped the bestseller lists in early February?

HarukiMurakami can also be short. His new book "First Person Singular" is modest in size. The eight stories come to a good 200 pages. The most important contemporary Japanese author, who is repeatedly considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, is best known for his novels that take up significantly more shelf space. Haruki Murakami stormed the top of the bestseller charts with “First Person Singular” at the beginning of February.

But Murakami (has shown several times that he's just as strong a narrator when it's not about the long haul. This also applies to his most recent work.

In the stories translated by Ursula Gräfe, the line between reality and fairytale-like passages is regularly blurred. Sometimes Murakami succeeds in doing this in a downright humorous way: The author, who had a jazz club himself for a number of years, dedicates a story to the jazz legend Charlie Parker. As a student, the first-person narrator wrote an enthusiastic but fictional review of one of his 1963 records. Because the alleged Bossa Nova LP doesn't even exist, Parker was dead a long time ago.

Years later, in a second-hand record shop in New York, the narrator discovers the exact disc he wrote about: "Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova". Even the pieces are exactly the same as the ones he came up with. How can that be? When he went back to buy it the next day, it was gone. But instead, Charlie Parker appears to the narrator in a dream and plays one of the bossa nova titles for him on the alto saxophone.

For Kafka admirers Murakami, reality is not what is in the dictionary or in the biology book. An elderly monkey can turn up in a run-down hostel who works in the bathroom and offers his services to the guests. “Would you like me to wash your back?” He asks gently.

In the evening the monkey has another beer with the narrator. He tells us that he fell in love with human women again and again and that he developed his very own method of dealing with his desires. With Murakami this seems as natural as the fact that there is no trace of the monkey to be found the next day.

What the stories have in common is that they are often about memories. In the very first of the volume “On the Stone Pillow”, the narrator cannot forget a collection of poems that a woman gave him. Under Murakami-typical strange circumstances: As a student, he worked with her in a restaurant for a short time. One day she wants to spend the night with him.

When they are in bed together, she tells him about her great love for a man who only calls her when he wants to sleep with her. "Like ordering something to eat." And she warns him that she could shout that other man's name out loud during sex.

After that one night, the two never see each other again, but the woman sends him a volume with 42 poems that she wrote herself, some of which are very touching to him. They are about love and death and again and again about beheadings. The fact that the narrator does not immediately have a plausible explanation for this is also typical Murakami: he leaves that up to the reader.