‘Shot of Short’ #15: Sleep

Title: Sleep by Haruki Marukami
Date Read: 11 November 2008
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: A Japanese wife, in a loving but routine filled marriage, has a problem with insomnia which evolves into a condition where she feels she needs no sleep at all, and apparently suffers no ill-effects from not doing so. Her dentist husband and her son are heavy sleepers, so the wife is able to live this second life during the hours of darkness, which she does to full effect, reigniting a love for reading. Subtly however, her condition deteriorates and her personality begins to slowly change, much to the woman’s detriment.
Afterthoughts: What an incredibly sublime reading experience this story gave me (even with the multitude of OCR recognition errors I had to deal with in the copy I read). I have a Murakami title (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) in my ’50 Novel’ reading list and another (Kafka on the Shore) on my ‘to read’ shelf, but this is the first time I’ve read any of Murakami’s writing. I’m blown away! Even in this short story (although not too short at 13,000+ words), I can see why the Japanese writer has such a widespread following. Murakami’s prose is so eloquent, so poetic and superbly constructed. The characters in this story are so incredibly well described that my mind’s eye has no trouble seeing them, even now. The story is unusual but wholly gripping, and I love how Murakami weaves his obvious love for Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina into a love shown in his main character. Literary fiction is a great love of mine, and for me it doesn’t get more literary than this. An absolute treat!
Notable Quote: ” I remember with perfect clarity that first night I lost the ability to sleep. I was having a repulsive dream?a dark, slimy dream. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember how it felt ominous and terrifying. I woke at the climatic moment?came fully awake with a start, as if something had dragged me back at the last moment from a fatal turning point. Had I remained immersed in the dream for another second, I would have been lost forever. My breath came in painful gasps for a time after I awoke. My arms and legs felt paralyzed. I lay there immobilized, listening to my own labored breathing, as if I were stretched out full length on the Boor of a huge cavern.”

Rating: ★★★★★

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. You’ll have to read one of his novels now. You have two excellent ones to choose from.

  2. What a great recommendation! He’s been starred on my “short story authors to read” list!

  3. I had to read this one since you gave it 5 stars, and I have often fantasized about needing less sleep so I have more time to read. But not anymore after reading this! I think this story is one that will stay with me.

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    @CB – I can’t wait but there’s just not enough hours in the day….hey maybe I should try the ‘no sleep’ policy too…errrrr…then again maybe not. Thanks for your input and for reaffirming both of the Murakami titles I’ve chosen are good ones (not that I doubted it for a minute :o)).
    @Rebecca – I do tend to wag my tail a little too much at times but as far as this story goes, I think it’s justifiied
    @Shelley – I’m glad my recommendation encouraged you to read this (and here’s me thinking my ramblings fell on a deaf audience), and that you enjoyed it (I think). It is tempting to sleep less to give ourselves more time for everything else isn’t it? I confess to getting by quite easily on 5-6 hours and I usually do. However every couple of weeks I seem to hit a wall so maybe, like the protagonist in this story, I’m doing more harm than good.


    you can tell I am just reading your 4, 4.5 and 5 star reviews and short stories!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Veens – I’m delighted your taking my word that these are good stories. I’m interested in finding out if you agree.

  6. Looking forward to read this one.Your description of Haruki Murakami made me order Blind willow, sleeping woman, a collection of his short stories.I hope it is as exciting as this one.


    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      That’s very nice to hear, Alpa. It always make my heart glow when I find out I’ve encouraged someone to take the jump. And you really must read Sleep. You’ll find that the story will stick with you forever if you do.
      Warmest regards


  1. […] is RobAroundBookLists day when I feature a reading list that’s taken my fancy, and this week, after reading Murakami’s short story Sleep and enjoying it thoroughly, I went on the hunt for more Japanese short stories that I could add to […]

  2. […] available at my libraries. Another of his short in the collection called Sleep was recommended by Rob (link to Rob’s review), which he rated 5 stars, and is “about an insomniac wife who […]

  3. […] a lot during the night when everybody is asleep. It’s recommended to me by Rob, you can read his review here. I thought the story was a typical Murakami, with dreams and weird things happening. I wasn’t […]