The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this as per the translation available in Granta Magazine. It s also available as pdf on GoodReads
The setting is some sort of therapy session perhaps one where "survivors" tell their stories. The seventh man of the title tells his story within this minimal framing. He recounts a childood experience, the loss of his best friend K, and his own survival, during a typhoon and tsunami when he was 10 years old. Plagued for the rest of his life by nightmares which impacted all his life, driving him away from his childhood home, stopping him from marrying, and by the fear that he had not done enough to save his friend, the old man tells how after going through a bundle of his friends artwork from their childhood he finally returned to the beach where his friend was lost and put paid to the fear which he had lived his life, attained a kind of salvation, a recovery. His final statement to the therapy group is
'They tell us that the only thing to fear is fear itself; but I don't beieve that, he said. Then, a moment later, he added: 'Oh, the fear is there, all right. It comes to us in many different forms, at different times, and overwhelms us. But the most frightenng thing we can do at such times is to turn our backs on it, to close our eyes. For then we take the most precious thing inside us and surrender it to something else. In my case, that soemthing was the wave' "
The story has some beautiful desciptions the typhoon weather and its tsunami - "the rain began to beat against the house with a weird dry sound, like handfuls of sand", "the storm's great 'eye' seemed to be up there, fixing its cold stare on all of us below", "the waves that had approached me were as unthreatening as waves can be - a gentle washing of the sandy beach. But something ominous about them - something like the touch of a reptile's skin - had sent a chill down my spine.....the waves were alive" "deep rumbling sound", the "weird gurgling" and "in the tip of the wave....floated K's body.....looking straight at me, smiling. HIs cold frozen eyes were locked on mine... his right arm was stretch out in my direction, as if he were trying to grab me...."
I think this is perhaps one of the more accessible of Murakami's stories; a good starter for readers unfamiliar with his work. It is also to be found in his collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
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