Haruki Murakami had been on my read-list for quite some time now. In an inter-connected world today, he is a global super-author. What “Game Of Thrones” is to television series or the World Cup is to football, Murakami is to the world of modern literature. Cutting across nationalities and races, people read him. The peer pressure to read him (just like following GoT) is immense. But he can be much more complicated than GoT or football. Therefore, I needed a simpler gateway into the enigmatic world of his mind before I could even fathom entering his surrealistic universe of “Norwegian Wood” or “Kafka On The Shore”. “Desire”, a collection of five short stories perfectly fitted the bill. So, I thought!
Five absolutely ridiculous stories: from primitive cavernous hunger in an urban setting to the universal birthday longing for an ultimate gift. Each character is so everyday, you feel like you know them. Or perhaps have lived some part of their journey or at least shared their journey in some way. What is more, you could even be one of the protagonists. Each one of us has a tale of unrequited love that we eventually get over (or not!). We all have also crossed, once in a while, a stranger on the street who stirs our urge of wanting to know the person more, exchanged that extra glance and wondered, “Wish I knew this person. I have a story to tell and a story to listen to. And then we could have our own story.”
Murakami is a Franz Kafka fan and it came as no surprise to me when one of his lead characters is named Gregor Samsa, who has undergone metamorphosis. The story is set in Prague, Kafka’s birth place. The transformed human bug Samsa’s genital bulge becomes massive when he sees a woman with a hunchback whose bra does not fit. The story would have made even Kafka proud!
Murakami’s tackles day to day human situations albeit through a veneer of pretentious complexity. Unfortunately, you are lost in this journey because there is no logical conclusion to anything. All our lives, we have been taught to imagine things in a certain way – there has to be coherence, there has to be an order to all madness. But Murakami tosses that sense of logic and coherence out of the window. One is forced to come out of their comfort zone of reading a free-flowing tale with closure. It is up to the reader to decide how they want to close the story. Or do they want to close the story at all? Aren’t stories in real life without much of a closure? Aren’t most of our dreams utterly absurd yet there is some semblance of sanity in them. All five stories leave you with that feeling.
I had to read the book twice. Thankfully, it is just about 100 pages. The first attempt was akin to the dreams of the last night while in the second attempt I tried to bring a semblance of sanity to the dream. Even after the second reading, I was still as lost as the characters in the stories – their thoughts unwarranted and their desires inexplicable. Nonetheless, many of our basest of thoughts and desires have no reason or ever make sense to us. Yet they exist. Just acknowledging them helps us to move closer to understanding human nature; our own nature. As such, eventually, I decided not to find a closure to Murakami’s stories. He manages to scratch the surface of many human emotions and I was o.k. to keep that status quo.
However, as a reader, you end up wanting more out of this collection. You want him to peel some additional layers and not expect so much from the reader to decipher. So, that leaves you with a yearning. In that sense, “Desire” should be read with a pinch of salt. I am sure this is not Murakami’s best work but it opens up the gates and you would definitely want to read his other books after this.
I just opened “Kafka On The Shore”!