Author: Haruki Murakami
'All I did was go to the library to borrow some books'.Tax collection in the Ottoman Empire is such an esoteric topic and the library atmosphere so grim that one wonders if it's all an allegory for a life in academic research. As with Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the story is dreamlike and odd. The prose isn't as clever as in the other book but it's still fun.
On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake.
Led to a special 'reading room' in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. His mother will be worrying why he hasn't returned in time for dinner and the old man seems to have an appetite for eating small boy's brains. How will he escape?
The real treat of The Strange Library is the illustrations, most of them taken from books found in The London Library. The pictures fit the story so well that I wondered if Murakami had found them first and built the story around them. But, in fact, they were added by the English language publishers. The original Japanese and translated German editions use different illustrations entirely.