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This is the latest English translation of Ichininshō Tansū (一人称単数) by Philip Gabriel, a professor of Japanese literature at the University of Arizona.
It comprised of eight short stories (including tanka poems) as told in a first-person singular narrative.
“Cream” (クリーム, Kurīmu)
“On A Stone Pillow” (石のまくらに, Ishi no Makura ni)
“Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” (チャーリー・パーカー・プレイズ・ボサノヴァ, Chārī Pākā Pureizu Bosanova)
“With The Beatles” (ウィズ・ザ・ビートルズ, Wizu za Bītoruzu)
“Confessions Of A Shinagawa Monkey” (品川猿の告白, Shinagawa Saru no Kokuhaku)
“Carnaval” (謝肉祭, Shanikusai)
“The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection” (ヤクルト・スワローズ詩集, Yakuruto Suwarōzu Shishū)
“First Person Singular” (一人称単数, Ichininshō Tansū)
Free First Person Singular Stories
If you are a longtime reader of this internationally acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, you would notice some of the stories are from his past published works.
The only new and unpublished story from this 2012 book is the book’s title story, “First Person Singular“.
Some termed Murakami’s signature style of writings as magic realism or supernatural realism.
Murakami’s distinctive melancholic ruminations about past events or occurrences that, consciously or unconsciously shape the protagonist’s character.
His protagonist is always ordinary and passive but encountering strange experiences.
From there, they will reveal a hidden world, which could be frightening, and awesomely weird.
The three words which best described his stories are: surreal, mysterious and philosophical.
“Cream” is about an aging man invited by a girl to a piano recital.
He finds the venue locked and deserted and he also meets an old mystic who tells him about “a circle with many centers”.
“A circle that has several centers and no circumference.” – quote from Cream
“On A Stone Pillow ” is about the guy who has a one-night stand with a female waitress who writes Tanka poems.
“Falling in love is like a mental illness that your health insurance won’t pay for.” – a quote from On A Stone Pillow
You can also read this short story here.
“Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” is about a university student who writes a fake review of a Charlie Parker record that has never existed.
Then he come across the fictitious album at a small used-record store in downtown New York.
“These graceful, disjointed phrases are like lovely memories, their names hidden, slipping into your dreams. Like fine wind patterns you never want to disappear, leaving gentle traces on the sand dunes of your heart…” – a quote from Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
“With The Beatles” is about recalling a girl holding onto an original copy of the Beatles’ 1963 LP “With The Beatles“.
This is the their second studio album and you can listen all the songs over here.
Basically the story is exploring the vitality of youth and mourns the experience of aging.
“Sometimes scraps of memory like that can be the trigger that brings a story into being.” – quote from With The Beatles
“Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” is about a guy who befriends a monkey at a rural inn.
This monkey who can speak like a human, scrubs guests’ backs in the hot springs, drink beer, fall in love with human females, and even steal women’s names.
“I believe that love is the indispensable fuel for us to go on living. Someday that love may end. Or it may never amount to anything. But even if it fades away, even if it’s unrequited, you can still hold on to the memory of having loved someone.” – a quote from Confessions Of A Shinagawa Monkey
“Carnaval” is about about beauty and ugliness.
In this story, the narrator calls this woman as the ugliest of all the women he has known until now.
“No matter how beautiful a woman might be, she always has imperfections, and likewise no matter how ugly a woman might be, there’s always a part of her that is beautiful.” – a quote from Carnaval
“Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection” is a collection of various short poems found in Haruki Murakami and the late Shigesato Itoi’s 1981 collaborative story collection titled “Let’s Meet In A Dream” (Yume de Aimashou).
By the way, the lateShigesato Itoi played the role of a professor in the film adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood“.
Related: You can find out more details of this book “Let’s Meet In A Dream” over here.
“First Person Singular” is about this guy who meets a woman in a bar.
She accuses him of a serious, but unnamed, offense against her friend.
He cannot recall the woman or his actions and leaves the bar.
Strangely, the world outside the bar has become hostile, bitterly cold, semi-buried in ash, inhabited by slimy snakes and faceless people.
Related: Here is a big list of free Haruki Murakami novels, short stories, essays and travel writings in English.
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