After reading Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami last year, I snatched up The Strange Library by the same author when I spotted it. And, wow, was I glad I did.
The Strange Library is actually a very short illustrated story, which I read in about ten minutes. When I finished, I went back through and looked at the illustrations properly, as I found I got so caught up in the story the first time through that I didn’t bother looking at the pictures.
The story is told by a young boy, who visits the library to return his books. The boy’s reading tastes are eclectic, the books he returns are How to Build a Submarine and Memoirs of a Shepherd. When he asks to borrow more books, he is sent to Room 107, where he tells the old man works in that room he is interested in learning about tax collection in the Ottaman Empire (!)
At this point, things get even stranger, as the old man finds the narrator three books on the subject.
The book itself is strange, let alone the title or the story. The front cover folds away from the top and the bottom, and the story starts on what is usually the front cover. The type is huge, and the font is typewriter. Almost every second page is an illustration, which relates (if you use your imagination) to the story itself. Some of the illustrations reminded me of the pictures on the boxes of wind up toys which were made in Japan when I was a child. I loved these toys and the illustrations on the boxes. Obviously I also loved the illustrations in the book.
Anyway, I won’t be put off going to my own library after reading The Strange Library, as my own library is a lovely, light, open space without any scary librarians, hidden rooms or traps for avid readers. I doubt my library has any reading material on the history of Turkish tax, but I don’t see that as a problem.
Read The Strange Library for the story and the pictures.