First Lines: The Strange Library

Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library is a strange little book. It tells the story of a lonely boy who went to the city library because he wanted to learn about tax collecting in the Ottoman empire–“Ever since I was little my mother had told me, if you don’t know something, go to the library and look it up”–and gets locked up. Together with a mysterious girl and a tormented sheep man, they plot their escape from the nightmarish library.

It’s surreal and dreamlike. You know that people don’t get locked up in subterranean library-cells required to learn books by heart, because their brains will get eaten if they fail. You know stuff like that doesn’t happen, but Murakami’s matter-of-fact tone sells it to you wholesale. Integral to the dreaminess is Chip Kidd’s design, and The New Yorker has more on that.

Book read
Haruki Murakami – The Strange Library (Fushigi na toshokan, translated by Ted Goossen, art direction and design by Chip Kidd)
First line
The library was even more hushed than usual.