‘The Second Bakery Attack’ by Haruki Murakami


The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami, 1985

The magic trick:

Combining thoughtful considerations of marriage with a pulpy action plot

“The Second Bakery Attack” – where the spaghetti western meets literary fiction. Two of my favorites things.

We’ve got desperation, violence, dramatic robbery attempts. But it’s all framed by considerations of marriage and lifestyle choices. Is settling down settling? Is marriage inherently restrictive? Is this even a love story?

All interesting questions, and it’s truly remarkable to get those through an otherwise pulpy high-tension, high-stakes action tale. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.

The selection:

“I’ve never been this hungry in my whole life,” she said. “I wonder if it has anything to do with being married.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe not.”

While she hunted for more fragments of food, I leaned over the edge of my boat and looked down at the peak of the underwater volcano. The clarity of the ocean water all around the boat gave me an unsettled feeling, as if a hollow had opened somewhere behind my solar plexus–a hermetically sealed cavern that had neither entrance nor exit. Something about this weird sense of absence–this sense of the existential reality of non-existence–resembled the paralyzing fear you might feel when you climb to the very top of a high steeple. This connection between hunger and acrophobia was a new discovery for me.

Which is when it occurred to me that I had once before had this same kind of experience. My stomach had been just as empty then….When?…Oh, sure, that was–

“The time of the bakery attack,” I heard myself saying.

“The bakery attack? What are you talking about?”

And so it started.


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