The Elephant Vanishes

by Haruki Murakami

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 302

The Elephant Vanishes: Stories, the collection in which "The Elephant Vanishes" appears, has received much acclaim from American and Japanese critics, who have lauded Murakami's originality and cosmopolitan style. Herbert Mitgang writing in the New York Times notes: "There are 17 charming, humorous and frequently puzzling short stories in The Elephant Vanishes, some of which first appeared in The New Yorker. Nearly all bear the author's special imprint: a mixture of magical realism, feckless wandering and stylish writing, often ending at a blank wall." Similarly, an anonymous reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly praises Murakami's unique talents, concluding that "In both his playful throwaway sketches and his darkly comic masterpieces, Murakami has proven himself a virtuoso with a fertile imagination."

While acknowledging that Murakami has his detractors in Japan with some critics dismissing Murakami's writings as not serious enough to be high literature, Celeste Loughman in her review in World Literature Today, notes that the author remains "immensely popular in Japan." She also praises Murakami's subversive satirical techniques and his ability to critique contemporary Japanese society in fresh ways, as she notes, "Dissatisfaction with life in a depersonalized, mechanistic society is an overworked theme. Murakami's stories rise above the cliché by the inventiveness, the fantasies and dreams, with which the characters respond to their situations."

Like other reviewers, David L. Ulin writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review applauds Murakami's renderings of a strange, supremely international world: "But the 17 stories here also reflect strains of literature and popular culture ranging from classical fairy tales to 'The Twilight Zone,' making "The Elephant Vanishes" one of the most consistently universal volumes of fiction you'll ever come across, a book that reflects the often disassociating experience of living at the end of the 20th Century, even for those who've never been within 5,000 miles of Japan."

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