How about making 2019 the year you introduce your teenager to more challenging literature? The Strange Library, a novella by Haruki Murakami is the ideal gateway to his adult fiction. Complemented by bold and fantastical illustrations, this 2014 reissue is set in a city library, or more accurately, in the hellish alternative-library-universe that appears to have subsumed its basement. Sucked into a labyrinthine nightmare, both narrator and reader are set to experience an extraordinary mind trip.
Our unnamed narrator is the type of boy who enjoys reading books with titles like How to Build a Submarine, or Memoirs of a Shepherd. Popping into the library with a query about the Ottoman Empire, he is directed to the mysterious Room 107. A room he’s never seen before, in a basement he never knew existed.
And it’s here his troubles begin, when he encounters a sinister librarian. This elderly gentleman draws him into a labyrinth of gloomy corridors, that fork and branch repeatedly. Their destination is the Reading Room, a space ‘as dark as if a hole had been pierced in the cosmos.’
Here, the librarian gleefully imprisons our stunned hero, instructing him to memorise three weighty volumes by heart.
‘…one month from now I will examine you…If I conclude that you have mastered their contents, then I will set you free.’
But the ghastly bibliophile has no intention of ever setting our hero free. Readers’ brains are packed with knowledge and it makes them taste deliciously creamy. The evil old man intends to add brain sucking to his roll call of unpleasant character traits.
Adult fans of Murakami will not be surprised at the oddness of this book. Laced with his usual ambiguities and symbolism, it teases and unsettles, with a body blow of a final twist. Tempt your kids into the surreal and mesmerising world of Haruki Murakami.
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami is published by Harvill Secker, 88 pages.