Dead Unicorns in the Snow: Murakami rewrites an ancient story with The City and Its Uncertain Wall. The result is poetic but long.
Haruki Murakami described his 1980 short story “The City and Its Uncertain Wall” as a “failure.” Now he cast the old material into a new form. In addition to the content, the title also remained the same.
The first-person narrator of the new novel, The City and Its Uncertain Wall, is initially a teenager who falls madly in love with a girl. The two maintain an intense pen-pal relationship. The young love interest disappears and lives – as it turns out – behind the wall of a mysterious city.
The unknown narrator follows her to this place. He, like everyone else before him, must leave his shadow with the guard at the gate of the Wall.
Hours without hands, people without shadows
In this mysterious city, many things are different than in the real world: people have no shadows, clocks have no hands, and you always encounter unicorns that die when it snows. This city looks desolate and nightmarish.
The first-person narrator works as a dream reader and meets a childhood sweetheart whom he does not remember. He finds his way back to the real world under mysterious circumstances and works as a library director in a small Japanese town.
Haruki Murakami's achievements
The Japanese writer will celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday on January 12, 2024. He is considered one of the most successful international authors.
His novels, short stories, essays, and nonfiction books have been translated into more than 50 languages. Haruki Murakami ran a jazz bar in Tokyo before devoting himself full-time to writing.
His great love of music – from jazz to rock to pop to opera and classical – is always part of his texts. What is also typical of Haruki Murakami's novels: extremely lonely characters searching for loved ones from a previous life.
Even in the real world, the mysterious city does not leave him alone: the protagonist meets the ghost of his deceased predecessor in the library and a teenager. These two characters also know the other world, the city with its uncertain walls.
Whiskey, jazz and magical realism
In the second part of the novel, the writer – in addition to magical realism – adds a few components that distinguish him into his text: the lonely protagonist shows himself as a wonderful cook, lover of wine and whiskey and connoisseur of jazz.
We discover late in the book that the protagonist is a sensual person: when he begins flirting with a café owner. But here too, the mysterious story about a mysterious parallel world remains dominant.
Long but poetic
Murakami rewrote the story, which he himself rated as a failure. However, the secondary use of the ancient material in particular seems long, with many repetitions and mystical and symbolic allusions.
Haruki Murakami: “The City and Its Mysterious Wall.” Dumont, 2024.
What distinguishes the work, despite its length, is the intimate atmosphere that the writer creates. He also paints poetic pictures with the flow of his easy words, such as describing dead unicorns in the snow.
Follow your heart and you will get anywhere
The game of shadow and light, subconscious and conscious, dream and reality is highly charged. The moral of the story is that any heart can overcome any wall. You just have to give your heart enough space.
Such a conclusion after reading more than 600 pages seems unlikely. The long story is pathetic at times and requires a lot of stamina from the readers. You probably have to be a Murakami fan to enjoy this.
Murakami's new novel is in the Literature Club
On January 30, 2024, Elke Heidenreich, Philipp Tingler and Kunsthaus director Anne Demeester will discuss, among others, Haruki Murakami's latest novel with host Jennifer Khakshori at the Literature Club.
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