There’s no doubt that Haruki Murakami is one of the best-selling authors of this century. He is loved by the public and anyone who has read any of his books. However, that wasn’t enough for him to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, so we want to pay tribute to him at Boolino.
We know the Japanese author Haruki Murakami (Kyoto, 1949) for his charming and complex stories – presented with a dreamlike quality, created by the atmospheres or characters they contain; a device that shows us the convergence of different worlds, seen as different planes and identities for the same person – like Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood, to name just two of the most successful books by an author who has presented us in the West as apocalyptic, and who, in the strictest sense of the word, is eye-opening.
The writer has uncovered manga for adults, stories in which the characters – people who have settled into the most mundane of routines – try to escape from the loop that is their life and the author offers them fantastic ways to do so, far from the reality of our universe. They will not be allowed to know themselves intimately and reflect on their identities by viewing themselves as others do, from the outside.
Murakami’s characters observe themselves, analyze themselves and judge themselves as if they were another person, thanks to the magic proposed by the author’s dreamlike game, symbolized by Kafka’s “entrance stone” or by the watery and apt jellyfish that Kat Menschik draws to represent insomnia in this illustrated book.
Sleep is a short story that Murakami wrote in 1990 and didn’t reach our shelves until it was published in 2013 by Libros del Zorro Rojo, because the author refused to publish the text unless it came with the (somewhat manga-inspired) illustrations by Murakami which, according to the author himself, transmit “that sense of otherness that I as an author want to evoke in my readers”.
This illustrated book that Lourdes Porta has translated as Sueño (sleep or dream) [note: the English translator chose Sleep rather than Dream] presents a woman who, as she is incapable of sleeping – without any physical consequences whatsoever – decides to subscribe to the life that she decided to abandon in order to form a family and become immersed in the most mechanical daily routines. The woman spends her nights reading passionately, with a bar of chocolate in one hand and alcohol in the other, books by Russian prose writers from the fin de siècle until she ponders why she suffers from this peculiar insomnia.
During her research she realizes that sleep is nothing more than a thief who controls a third of our lives and that, thanks to her lack of sleepiness, she alone is the owner of her life and how she lives it, something which amazes the protagonist so much that she even starts to see herself from the outside, someone almost unrecognizable thanks to the change: “I realized that I had become a more beautiful woman than I had ever believed myself to be. I looked extremely rejuvenated. I could have passed for a girl of twenty-four”.
However, having total control of her personal identity will not have a happy ending for our heroine who, seeking thrills, will take advantage of this fantastic sleepless capacity to explore new places and completely escape “the cage of her own inertias”.
Much like his chronologically later works, in this novella Murakami shows us that perhaps we will never get to know ourselves fully, that we are osmotic beings who grow thanks to the impulses in our environment – unhappy, perhaps – but stronger for delving into the human soul in which, without a doubt, we find destructive impulses that will not only lead to us breaking with our world’s ethical and social conventions but may also change us as individuals once and for all. So… is this change so bad and fatalistic? Is it so terrible to know ourselves?