I first heard of Haruki Murakami when an excerpt from his recent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running appeared in The New Yorker. In that work, Murakami describes his deliberate and mechanical transformation from nightclub owner to writer during which also quit smoking, started sleeping and began running. After some time he found that the routines, disciplines and explorations of his running began to parallel his writing process. As someone who would like to consider himself a writer, I read this piece wishing I had some sort of independent regimen whereby I too could obtain such a parallel process to explore ideas. My job as an accountant has been sucking in all light and matter from my life lately. It’s a routine which ideas and originality find to be a hostile environment.
I drove to work Monday morning listening to NPR. On the program, Selected Shorts, John Shea read Murakami’s short story, “The Seventh Man”. It can be found in this collection: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.
As well noted in this program’s introduction, Murakami’s work is generally considered contemporary or hip. This story however has a timeless, ghostly otherworldliness to it. A group of men collected in some undeterminable place are telling stories. Their reason for gathering is likewise not specified. All we know is that a windstorm rages outside the room they share. The seventh man is the last man to tell his story. He is a modestly dressed nondescript older gentleman.
Into this trepidatious setting, the seventh man begins to tell a story of a storm that wrought havoc on his childhood home. But Murakami does something that takes this vehicle to another level. The seventh man begins his story with the following sentences, and I’ve not been able to get these words out of my mind since Monday:
“…in my case, it was a wave,’ he said. ‘There’s no way for me to tell, of course, what it will be for each of you. In my case, it took the form of a giant wave. It...presented itself to me in the form of a gigantic wave. And it was devastating.’”