Vintage Minis is a series launched in 2017 by Penguin that is characterised by its brevity and universal themes of what makes us human.
Desire is the theme the publishing house chose for Haruki Murakami’s five short stories that are taken from three of his following short story collections:
- Elephant Vanishes
- Blind Willows, Sleeping Women
- Men Without Women
While I did not really go looking for the theme of desire in each short story, I did enjoy all five of them since each had its own unique tale to tell.
Starting with The Second Bakery Attack that is narrated as an anecdote of the past of how a newly married couple found itself gnawed by a hunger that they had never known before and which they could only satisfy through a curious robbery!
Next came a witty story of meeting the right person for you and what to say in case you do meet them. On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning is bound to light up your day as you empathasise with the narrator, who like many of us, believes that you are fated to meet your soul mate; but, who, also like many of us, is unable to actually do anything in that situation. And alas, like many of us, the narrator is tongue tied and only constructs the right words long after the moment has passed. I wonder how many of us are doomed by such cruel fates!
The third on the list, Birthday Girl, juxtaposes an odd combination of the mundane and the aura of a fairy tale with mysterious restaurant owners who grant wishes as characters. The narrative technique is quite unique as well where it seems like it is being told in the third person when at the end you realise it is actually a first person narration but the first person narrator is listening to the vignette of her friend.
Next up, Samsa in Love, is a subversionesque story of Kafka’s famous Metamorphosis where George Samsa turns into a human and is trying to figure out how his body works. It is like watching a child learn. Then he meets an unlikely acquaintance to whom his body reacts physically but he is unable to name that reaction. The girl he meets is disgusted but Samsa is merely confused. It brings into question the idea of how much of love is physical or if love is absolutely Platonic or can love be detached from its physical manifestations.
The last and the longest in the collection has a curiously long title as well, A Folklore for My Generation: A Prehistory of Late-Stage Capitalism. It is again told in an anecdotal style, recollecting something that happened in the past. It is a story of a perfect relationship that one of the narrator’s classmate used to have back in university in the 1960s. It is an interesting ode to the 60s’ along with looking at one of its downsides as well.
Of the five short stories of Desire, two are told through a retrospective style, two through anecdotal flashback and one through a first person narration.
However, each story carries with it a unique viewpoint that resonates with its readers.
I would definitely recommend Desire since it is not only a quick short read but also gives you glimpses of the many quirks of people and their lives.
Have you read Desire?
Which one was your favourite story?
Have you read any other books in the Vintage Mini series?
Share in the comments below!