‘The Elephant Vanishes’ by Haruki Murakami

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami, 1985

The magic trick:

A narrator who reveals more about the plot the second time he discusses the details than he did the first time

We’re in for a treat – another Murakami Week on the website.

We begin with a missing elephant.

The story structure is interesting. The first half is exposition, with the narrator talking directly to the reader, explaining the history of this town’s elephant. Then in the second half, he conveys the story through a conversation he has with a woman he meets at a work event.

The odd part is that it becomes clear that he wasn’t showing all his cards to us during the expository section. He had the key to the mystery the whole time, but he doesn’t share it until he meets the woman. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. I’m not even sure such a structure is all that important to what the story is trying to say. But it’s still an interesting twist. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.

The selection:

Whenever I had a spare moment, I would visit the house where the elephant no longer lived. A thick chain had been wrapped round and round the bars of the yard’s iron gate, to keep people out. Peering inside, I could see that the elephant-house door had also been chained and locked, as though the police were trying to make up for having failed to find the elephant by multiplying the layers of security on the now-empty elephant house. The area was deserted, the previous crowds having been replaced by a flock of pigeons resting on the roof. No one took care of the grounds any longer, and thick green summer grass had sprung up there as if it had been waiting for this opportunity. The chain coiled around the door of the elephant house reminded me of a huge snake set to guard a ruined palace in a thick forest. A few short months without its elephant had given the place an air of doom and desolation that hung there like a huge, oppressive rain cloud.

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