One of them would die first

birthday-storiesBirthday Stories
selected by Haruki Murakami
Japanese text translated by Jay Rubin

When rearranging my TBR on my new shelves just before my birthday, I spotted this title that seemed like it would be pretty appropriate birthday reading. Even more appropriately, today is the birthday of the book’s editor, Haruki Murakami (happy 67th birthday Haruki!). This slim collection of 13 short stories is not the most cheerful but it provides a good introduction to a variety of authors.

The book started life as a collection of works in English translated into Japanese by Murakami, with an added short story of his own that he wrote specially. For this English edition he has written an introduction about the curation process and perhaps reading this first gave me a slightly negative start. First, Murakami freely admits that he is not a big birthday person himself and that the stories he found tend to be dark and unhappy. Second, he struggled to find enough stories and ended up asking friends, editors and agents for ideas, which does not suggest a rich treasure trove from which to curate a “best of”. But it’s a nice idea and there were a couple of authors here – David Foster Wallace and Claire Keegan – who I’d been meaning to give a try, so this seemed like a good route.

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