Haruki Murakami Visits Bordertown

I thought this one would be easy.

For this weeks Deal Me In Short Story Challenge I drew “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”, the title story from Haruki Murakami’s anthology and “We Do Not Come in Peace” by Christopher Barzak from the anthology Welcome To Bordertown. Find a way to link Haruki Murakami with a fantasy story set at the edge of fairy land. Should be a cinch.

For the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge I’ve been drawing two cards instead of one each week and looking for a way to link the two stories together. If you know Haruki Murakami at all, then you know why I thought this round would be easy. Much of his work is full of magical elements, one of the main reasons why those of us who love him love him, and why those who do not like him do not like him.

But “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” is a slice of life story with no magic in it at all. Unless you count the tale within the story which is a fairy tale, though a fairy tale that has little in common with most Bordertown stories.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” is about a young man who is taking his much younger cousin to the doctor. The two talk about various things, mostly the younger cousin’s hearing problems, while riding the bus together. Whenever their conversation falls into a period of silence, the young man recalls the recent event in his life, especially those related to the young woman who tells the fairy tale within the story.

“We Do Not Come in Peace” is also about a young man. This young man has fallen in love with a younger man, a new arrival to Bordertown. Between editions of Bordertown anthologies the gateways to Bordertown were closed. While this closure lasted for 13 days within Bordertown, it lasted for 13 years in the human world. So the new arrivals in Bordertown have lived through 13 years of human history, the last 13 years, that those inside Bordertown missed out on. This can make relationships difficult.

Marius, the narrator of “We Do Not Come in Peace,” is trying to show a new arrival, Alex, the ropes. Marius is in love with Alex but he also sees himself as something of a mentor, a protector, the guy who can make sure Alex learns how to survive in Bordertown. This is, on an essential level, also how the narrator of “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman ” sees his relationship with his young cousin.  There’s even something of a time lapse in Murakami’s story.  The two were much closer together when they were younger as a 14-year-old can get away with playing games his six-year-old cousin  enjoys in ways that a 22-year-old cannot really do with a 14-year-old.  blind willow (1)

The two really live in different worlds, even though they live in the same world.  This goes for both stories.  Murakami’s narrator is more successful than Marius, probably because he is a blood relation.  He is able to form a bond with his cousin; it may or may not be one that lasts long beyond this particular bus ride, but we know Marius is unlikely to ever see Alex ever again except for passing glances here and there a the two negotiate life in Bordertown.

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5 Comments

  1. Chris Wolak says:

    I haven’t read any Murakami yet.

  2. Dale says:

    I’ve read “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” and liked it. I haven’t read a lot of Murakami, but what I have read, I’ve liked. The Bordertown story sounds great, especially the way you linked it to Murakami.
    -Dale

  3. Jay says:

    As a felliw Murakami fan, I disagree with the statement that BW,SW had no magic in it at all. To me, its magic was the slip between “the now” and “the realm of memory” (as HM calls it) that the narrator can perform. Perform with difficulty, though, as in the end of the story when he must be “brought back” to the here and now and – at least for a moment – existed in both these worlds.

    I think this story was also an episode – or at least very similar to one – in one of his novels. I want to say “Norwegian Wood” but may be misremembering.

    I’ve heard of Bordertown from many fellow readers and have long wanted to visit it, but have yet o book the trip.

    1. I see you point, but I’m going to stick with my stricter definition of ‘magic.’ Though the idea of slipping between worlds would certainly connect the story with Bordertown. Bordertown exists between worlds.

      BW,SW is very lie Norwegian Wood in general.

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