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A book review of “First Person Singular” by Haruki Murakami: Surreal everyday stories full of catchy quotes.
Haruki Murakami seems to divide the minds. For some, the Japanese author is an absolute must-read and every new work is eagerly awaited. For others, however, he is overrated and the hype surrounding him is completely incomprehensible. My own opinion is somewhere between the two extremes. I’ve only read two of his books, but I’m definitely hungry for more: first I read “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” and now “First Person Singular”, his latest short story collection, which was published in Germany in 2021 by Dumont Verlag.
“First Person Singular” by Haruki Murakami: Surreal Short Stories from Everyday Life
“First Person Singular” consists of nine stories told from the memories of a first-person narrator, often with a surreal touch. A talking monkey (who is really exceptionally polite), music icons appearing in dreams (having a chat with the author of a fictional music review) or simply irritatingly banal encounter and observations. Entertaining are (almost) all the short stories. Only one homage to baseball made me drop out. Sports aren’t interesting to me as a practice, on television, or in books. But that’s just my subjective opinion. Whether the first-person narrator is one and the same or Murakami is reporting from his own life is not resolved.
What impresses me about the two books I have read by Haruki Murakami so far is, above all, the language. It is clear and straightforward, but what is said is of a directness that always makes you wonder and chuckle.
To my surprise, after reading about Murakami, I discovered that he has acquired this style through an unusual technique. As he revealed to SPIEGEL, he translates his Japanese texts into English and back again in order to achieve a particularly “straightforward style” with the help of his limited English vocabulary. In order to convey a sense of his linguistic style in my book review, I have collected five quotes from “First Person Singular” that remained in my head after the first reading.
5 quotes from “First Person Singular” that make the book so worth reading
Disclaimer: These quotes are translated from German into English and may differ from the official English book version.
"Falling in love is like having a mental illness that health insurance won't pay for." "First Person Singular" (2021) - Haruki Murakami
"Nothing that comes easily has value," the old man grumbled at me. "But the hard to get, which you earn with a lot of time and effort, will be the crème de la crème of your life. "First Person Singular" (2021) - Haruki Murakami
It's like going to the dark side of the moon and coming back empty-handed." "First Person Singular" (2021) - Haruki Murakami
Don’t worry about this quote, even the first person narrator doesn’t really understand this metaphor, but the imagery definitely stuck with me.
"Just as every beautiful woman has something ugly about her, so every ugly woman has something beautiful. And unlike beautiful women, ugly ones seem to enjoy their beautiful sides. They are never substitutes or metaphors for anything." "First Person Singular" (2021) - Haruki Murakami
That may sound harsh and kind of can be labeled as “describing women from a male perspective” – but admittedly it is often true. And if you disagree, admit that the quotation stimulates discussion.
"In any case, the incident left a very unpleasant aftertaste that resisted any attempt to swallow or spit it out." "First Person Singular" (2021) - Haruki Murakami
Don’t we all (unfortunately) know this feeling?
Book review: To whom I can recommend “First Person Singular”
“First Person Singular” is a book I can recommend to anyone who has an afternoon to sit down and browse at their leisure. Moreover, these five quotes are only what stuck with me after the first reading. Murakami’s latest short story collection offers much more thoughts and sentences worth discovering. I noticed that myself, while I picked out these five quotes again.
“First Person Singular” by Haruki Murakami was published by Dumont Buchverlag in January 2021.