“The Wind Cave”
by Haruki Murakami
translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
from the September 3, 2018 issue of The New Yorker

This week, for better or for worse, The New Yorker is again presenting an excerpt from a novel: Haruki Murakami’s 2017 novel Killing Commendatore, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. I’ve never quite been on the right wavelength to fully enjoy anything I’ve read by Murakami, but I’m glad there are so many fans out there who are looking forward to this book, which will hit shelves on October 9 (you can read M.A. Orthofer’s early review here).

Are any of you Murakami fans? If so, is it nice to get an early excerpt or do you just wait for the book? Is there anyone out there who will be picking up the book based on this excerpt? Avoiding it based on the excerpt?

And, of course, let us know how you like “The Wind Cave.”

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By |2018-08-27T13:02:53+00:00August 27th, 2018|Categories: Haruki Murakami, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. David August 27, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I have read Murakami before – both short stories and novels – and liked his work a lot. I have a couple of his books on my “Why Aren’t You Reading This Already, Idiot!” list. But I’m going to skip this excerpt unless others can make a strong case that it works as as if it were a stand-alone story. I believe (although I’m not sure) the excerpt comes from near the start of the novel, which is also mark in its favour. But for now, I’ll wait for the novel and if I feel like reading some Murakami I have a couple of other books and collections of stories I can turn to anyway.

  2. Diana Cooper August 27, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    I’m tired of excerpts from novels being passed off as short stories. They remind me of “previews of coming attractions” and have a whiff of commercialism about them that puts me off. I do admit, however, that I was so taken by an excerpt from Ian McEwan’s book “Saturday” in the New Yorker that I immediately hunted it down and bought it as soon as it came out. I still prefer actual short stories to one slice from the cake of a novel, though.

  3. David August 27, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Diana, I am right with you on that! I read “Of Windows and Doors” by Mohsin Hamid when The New Yorker published it in 2016 and based on that got and read the novel (Exit West) from which it was extracted and quite liked it as well. But I was a little bit distracted when reading the book by my memory of the extract, especially since in this case the short story version was not just plucked out of the novel, but a substantial rewriting of a section of it. So even when reading extracts or excerpts of other sorts of carvings of novel that I like, it can be problematic as well. That’s how I came to the decision to skip them all.

  4. Julian Wyllie August 27, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    “Killing Commendatore” has been an anticipated read for me this year, so much so that I went ahead and reread “Norwegian Wood,” the only Murakami novel I really like, as well as “Wind/Pinball” “South of the Border…” and “A Wild Sheep Chase.” I tried “1Q84” and couldn’t get through it. Overall, Murakami has always been the kind of writer that I want to like but I don’t usually see what’s very brilliant.

    I don’t mind excerpts. Usually I’ll read them just to confirm a purchase I already planned or didn’t plan to make. With that said this excerpt wasn’t very interesting to me, but part of me still wants to see the entire body of work to try and understand how this fits. The sections were easy to read, nothing too fancy, and while I won’t call it dull I can’t say I was very excited, either.

    For those who don’t skip it and like it, I’d like to know what you thought. The reading for me felt hollow but I can see someone extracting something more interested than I did.

  5. kensuiyim August 28, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    If I hadn’t been told this was an excerpt of a novel, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. However, now that I do know, I see that it seems too perfectly packaged. It doesn’t have that full, open ended quality of so much contemporary short fiction. It feels like somebody, to borrow a film editing word, spliced a bit that would seem neatly packaged. I’m thinking specifically of all the references to Alice. I Guess this could be what people mean by excerpts seeming commercialized. I prefer realist Murakami to absurdist Murakami and i like how he reaches for pathos but I’m not sure its fully achieved. I would give the novel. A try though i wish he wouldn’t pander to the west so much.

  6. Larry Bone August 29, 2018 at 12:24 am

    Kensuiyim,
    That is an interesting comment about Murakami pandering to the West. He seems to tailor Japanese culture for Western sensibilities. He has a sense of crafting the story so smoothly from beginning to end, carefully crafting every element like O. Henry or a Carpenters’ song. It’s beautiful to listen to/read but theme and action seem underdeveloped, the style dipping slightly negative almost like careful but somewhat obscure emotional shading. The Carpenters’ music is still very popular in Japan and the perfection of the sound dropped out of favor in the West because after some length of time, the finished perfect quality no longer appealed. Murakami sort of tinkers with the formalism of a story giving an old time fantasy feel tweeked and gently torqued up with bits of realism which keep it from falling off a more modern reader’s radar. Difficult to make much sense of but beautiful to read.
    Larry B.

  7. Ken September 7, 2018 at 2:38 am

    I also did not feel that this seemed like an excerpt. I found it moving and enjoyed it. I don’t know if I have much more to say than that but maybe that’s enough sometimes.

  8. Larry Bone September 27, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I have second thoughts leading to a better opinion concerning Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind Cave.”  It’s true it isn’t open ended and seems like a small chapter module from his larger novel.  And good short stories and novels are supposed to pose questions that aren’t ever fully answered.

    Wind Cave seems all too neat in execution but though it is Western primarily in the focus on the younger sister’s early unexpected death.  Yet in managing to figure out death so it possibly seems more acceptable (when one’s internal life battery taxi meter gets clicked off and one has to get out of the cab and let someone else born into body, catch their own individual long taxi ride).   The story then seems very Eastern.

    Wind, like death, exists but can’t be seen prior to being felt after emerging out of nowhere when by someone out at sea on a boat or shortly before the app of one’s body is suddenly uninstalled and a flat non beeping line emerges on the continous ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor hanging overhead in the operating room near the end of heart surgery.

    In this story Komi experiences death while alive, 2 years prior to it actually taking place.  This seems to occur even though maybe she doesn’t directly think of it that way.

    “Like your body is gradually coming apart and disappearing.  But since it’s dark you can’t see it happen.  You don’t know if you still have a body or not.”  This could be a somewhat imaginative yet realistic description over time of what happens after one dies either in a grave or crematorium, the final end point consisting of either disappearing into dirt or ashes.

    Komi seems not frightened of death at that moment.  “But when I was there I didn’t think it was weird at all.  I wanted to stay there forever,    .   .   .”

    A parallel reality could consist of the invisible one that mirrors the real physical palpable one yet all part of the same overall time continuum.  Time is finite when experienced within the finite physical object of one’s body living among other inanimate or nonliving material objects.  But in one moment when death arrives, all time becomes eternal or that is one way to view it.

    The word Alice printed on a page in a book, symbolizes an invisible Alice that gradually appears in one’s imagination when one reads all the words in Alice in Wonderland.  So maybe Komi is Murakami’s Alice existing in the older brother’s imagination after her physical body has died.  Much as Alice in Alice in Wonderland represents Alice Liddell who Louis Carroll had seen before she dies.

    Death is an unmentionable (sure way to get sent away from the dinner table if one says anything about it).  And that makes stories like this sad but kind of explains something that can never really fully be explained which some might think is part of a good short story.  But other people understandably just don’t want to go there.  So I liked that it made me look a little closer at something I may not generally like looking at any time.

    And the older brother represents how the reader would view the loss of a loved one if she could 2 years prematurely explain to him what it would be like and urge him (or the reader) not to worry or feel bad about something so miserable as death.  For some people that helps. But for others, it in no way makes up for the loss of the loved one or says nothing at all or at least, nothing to them.

    And so perhaps based on a reader’s approach, he or she either tends to like or not like the story.

  9. Peggy Kaplan September 30, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    I am a fan of Murakami. Not sure how to describe it, but there is something straight forward about the writing of the his first person narrators. A loneliness? i am in the middle of “The Unwind Clock.”And in fact, feel that the style of the telling is the same for the two different speakers. I find it a poignant tale about an older brother losing a younger sister, and not a relationship usually explored in fiction and in this case without any adults around and no rivalry either. i liked the layering of death, the cave, and “Alice in Wonderland.”

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