A Shinagawa Monkey Summary

Synopsis

The short story "A Shinagawa Monkey" was published twice in 2006, first in the New Yorker magazine and then in Haruki Murakami's collection of short stories Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. This collection has appeared on several literary critics' lists as one of the best books of the decade.

"A Shinagawa Monkey" is a perfect example of Murakami's writing skills and technique. The author has a knack for pulling readers into his stories and stringing them along through a slow, tantalizing series of curious details. Though the reading journey that transpires is enjoyable, at the end of the story, the reader tends to be left with a lot of unanswered questions.

In "A Shinagawa Monkey," Murakami relates the story of a woman who has trouble remembering her name. She is twenty-something and has recently been married. There is some confusion in her life concerning whether she should use her maiden name at work or change all her personnel records to reflect the fact that she has taken on her husband's last name. Her recent forgetfulness makes her think that her husband, who is prone to intellectualize or rationalize every circumstance in their new lives together, will believe that the reason she forgets her name is due to some inherent unhappiness. Now that she is living with him, she might be having second thoughts about their marriage, her husband might conclude. The forgetfulness is merely a symptom of her regret.

The protagonist's name is Mizuki Ozawa Ando. She claims she is happily married and does not regret anything about her married name. But recently, whenever anyone asks her what her name is, she forgets, so she has begun to wear a bracelet on which her name is engraved. But she still worries about her forgetfulness and eventually goes to a doctor. The doctor suggests that she see a counselor, as the problem probably is more psychological than physical.

Thus Mizuki begins a relationship with a psychologist, a female named Tetsuko Sakaki. Over the course of several weeks, Mrs. Sakaki discovers the reason behind Mizuki's loss of memory. The solution is a bit absurd but a typical a Murakami ending. It turns out that a monkey has stolen Mizuki's name. Mrs. Sakaki's husband, who is a government official, wants to destroy the monkey for torturing Mizuki in this way, but Mizuki forgives the monkey. For this, the monkey reveals a secret. He tells Mizuki that her mother and her older sister have never loved her.

Ed. Scott Locklear