Monday, May 12, 2014

Murakami Haruki "Sleep" (Nemuri; 初出1989)

Morrison: Readings in Japanese Literature

Murakami Haruki: “Sleep”[1]

*To purchase Jay Rubin's translation of the story, click here

Study Questions

1. Describe the narrator’s first bout of insomnia. How long did it last? How did it end?
2. Describe the narrator’s current condition of sleeplessness. How does it differ from her prior experience with insomnia?
3. Describe the husband, and the narrator’s relationship with him. Is his “featureless” face (77) indicative of something?
4. Describe the narrator’s daily routine.
5. The narrator says that deep within her there exists something “very important to me,” which she does not “want to lose” (80). What do you think this “something” is? Explain.
6. The narrator seems to have a good, conventional life—yet something is missing. What exactly is missing, in your view?

7. Describe the narrator’s first sleepless night.
8. Describe the strange vision she has, which prompts her into a state of sleeplessness. What does the old man with the water pitcher represent?
9. Compare and contrast the old narrator (i.e. the narrator in her college days; pp. 87-88) with the recent narrator (i.e. the narrator in her family life; pp. 78-81). What has changed in her life? How has she changed? What has she lost?
10. Describe in detail the narrator’s metamorphosis.

11. What does the narrator learn at the library about the connection between “sleep” and “tendencies”? Explain her “new determination” after leaving the library.
12. Describe the narrator’s feelings toward her husband after her “metamorphosis.” Why does she feel this way?
13. Discuss the ending (106-109). Who are the “two men—the dark shadows—[who] keep shaking my car”?
14. Identify a line or passage that you feel is especially significant to the overall theme of the story. Explain its significance to your group.

Further Discussion Topics

The narrator’s “authentic” act: is it regressive or progressive? Will it ultimately/necessarily lead to alienation/death? 
Is she a female Übermensch? 
Consider story in context of Heidegger’s notion of “authenticity.” 
Consider the role/function of death in the work.

[1] First published in Bungakukai (January 1989). Translated by Jay Rubin. Included in The Elephant Vanishes.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mother said...

I wonder if Murakami Haruki has read Heidegger;"Sleep"is a very Heideggerian work; Heidegger on authenticity(lecture):